Swedish protection in Addis Abeba

And so the Swedish journalists in Ethiopia got prison. 11 years for illegal entry and terrorism. I feel sorry for them and their families. ‘Merry Christmas’.

The outrage in Swedish media, however, is interesting from a cultural perspective. The trial has been called ‘unfair’, the case condemned as ‘political’ and the African system as ‘corrupt’. Is this true or is it a case of Swedes taking the moral high ground?

Anthropologists are yet to find a culture that thinks their way is wrong. And judging by this case, this is a very relevant discovery for Swedish culture. It seems very often in Swedish media, and even amongst Swedes themselves, that no other legal system is as honest and fair as the Swedish one. All African and Asian judicial systems are deemed unjust, as are most European – and the American system is seen as flawed.

Is this the reason why Sweden has given itself the role of the social and political conscience of the world? The neutral, peacekeeping and mediating nation? Because at heart Swedes think they’re right and the others are wrong?

My recurring feeling is that this belief gives some Swedes a false sense of security. Wherever they are in the world, they feel protected by the superiority of Swedishness.

The particular case in Ethiopia is, of course, a tragedy all round. And although the perpertrators may very well not be terrorists, they certainly did enter the country illegally. As journalists, they saw it as their duty to report on one of the most closed regions in the world. But they got caught.

And, although they might think so, I’m afraid being Swedish won’t protect them in Addis Abeba.

Let the light in – Lucia morning in Sweden

A Chinese proverb says this,

‘It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’.

Never was this more true than today. Lucia day. At the darkest time of the year, when we all are drained by the black mornings and afternoons, Lucia pays us a visit. With candles in her hair and surrounded by her handmaidens and boys, Lucia shines light into the dark depths of our spirits. And slowly, slowly, the day awakens.

I love Lucia. Long live Lucia!

Lucia traditions are celbrated in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Malta, Bosnia, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovakia and St. Lucia, West Indies. But where does she come from and why is she one of the few Saint’s days celebrated in Sweden?

Santa Lucia is believed to have been a Sicilian saint who suffered a martyr’s death in Syracuse, Sicily around AD 310. She was seeking help for her mother’s long-term illness at the shrine of Saint Agnes, in her native Sicily, when an angel appeared to her in a dream beside the shrine. As a result of this, Lucy became a devout Christian and refused to compromise her virginity in marriage. Officials threatened to drag her off to a brothel if she did not renounce her Christian beliefs, but were unable to move her, even with a thousand men and fifty oxen pulling. So they stacked materials for a fire around her instead and set light to it, but she would not stop speaking. One of the soldiers stuck a spear through her throat to stop her, but to no effect. Soon afterwards, the Roman consulate in charge was hauled off to Rome on charges of theft from the state and beheaded. Lucia was able to die only when she was given the Christian sacrement.

The tradition of Santa Lucia is said to have been brough to Sweden via Italian merchants and the idea of lighting up the dark appealed so much that the tradition remained. The current tradition of having a white-dressed woman with candles in her hair appearing on the morning of the Lucia day started in the area around Lake Vänern in the late 18th century and spread slowly to other parts of the country during the 19th century.

The modern tradition of having public processions in the Swedish cities started in 1927 when a newspaper in Stockholm elected an official Lucia for Stockholm that year. The initiative was then followed around the country through the local press. Today most cities in Sweden appoint a Lucia every year. Schools elect a Lucia and her maids among the students. The regional Lucias will visit shopping malls, old people’s homes and churches, singing and handing out gingerbread.

So, it might be cold and dark outside, but inside it’s light. And the light is always stronger than the darkness. Keep your light lit, and you will never feel the darkness.