Just over a week ago, charges were filed against eight Bulgarians who earned a million Swedish Crowns (SEK) in organizing beggars networks in which a large number of compatriots were used. The operations were conducted at several locations in Småland. It has been brought to light that the Church of Sweden, through its charitable activities, not only helped victims but the criminal bosses as well. This has raised much criticism against the Church.
By – Brünnhilde
Even thought the Church’s staff knew that the relief fund linked to the diakonia Center in Växjö was funding human trafficking, they kept silent instead of contacting the police. The Church treated the beggars’ bosses with the same helping hand as though they were caregivers for the vulnerable on the streets.
In addition to external criticism, an internal debate withing the Church of Sweden has begun to discuss how the Christian message of love should be interpreted and practiced. “Will the Church help both the victims and the perpetrators?” For example, was a question posed in the Christian newspaper, The Day, in an article that highlighted the event.
The situation is described as such: people being charged with human trafficking are constantly returning to the diakonia Center with new groups of beggars.
They are utilizing the relief funds and now the [Church] staff realizes that it’s not right. These men are hired beggar in organized begging and exploitation of people. Nevertheless, the Church allowed the criminals to claim the resources of the relief fund.
The staff applied this reason as means to not alarm or deny the beggars’ bosses, “The Church’s deacons do not make any difference to people.” One of the beggars’ bosses is allowed to use the business premise as their office and address for correspondence.
These men do not beg for themselves and they have “their pockets full of money”. Nevertheless, they may eat food from the charitable organizations’ food [intended for the vulnerable] without having to pay.
The charity has limited resources and worst ever bidding [process]. This led to an increased difficulty for this charitable program which was originally intended to help with displacement effects for the vulnerable Swedes.
The Church of Sweden says nothing to the police, but the authority begins to have suspicion of these men on their own. There have been rifles between begging spots and bosses have abused beggars that they consider to be intruding on their areas. Even their own group of beggars gets beaten if they do not collect enough money.
The investigation is growing and subsequently exacerbating prosecution against the eight men for human trafficking of more than 60 people, among other things. This is being described as one of the largest ever [investigation of trafficking bosses] in Sweden and the organized utilization of people have given the bosses millions in income.
This [investigation] continued while they freed and, in other ways, made use of the help of the Church of Sweden and continued to do so even though the staff knew what was going on.
In connection with the prosecution, staff from the diakonia Center have been called to testify. Everyone is shaken up about the Swedish Church in Växjö, the core center and the events have initiated a Christian ethical debate: “How to deal with perpetrators who belong to a vulnerable group?”
One can read from the police hearings that some of the staff (who understood but kept silent afterwards) are self-critical but at the same time, defend themselves as having “a hard dilemma.” If you say no to the beggar bosses, the exploited beggars may not come to the charity and therefore you can’t “help the little man.
However, the reasoning does not mean that these people need other and more basic help to get rid of the begging and the bosses who use them, a help that only the Swedish (especially Bulgarian and Romanian) can provide.
For this purpose, these countries have also received the equivalent of 300 billion SEK in EU money. In order for the Romanian and Bulgarian authorities to be able to help their vulnerable compatriots. They need to be in their home country and not on a street or deacon center in Sweden.
Sweden has received criticism from Romania and Bulgaria. Sweden has made it increasingly difficult, with their attitude towards organized begging, for those countries to reach out to the groups of people involved. Critics also believe that the Church’s charitable relief operation serve as a further factor in organized begging.
Asa Ingvert, the permanent Chief of Växjö, is not as self-critical as some of her subordinates are. She maintains, when contacted by the news paper The Day, that the diakonia centrum acted properly. No crime has taken place inside the walls of the Church of Sweden. What is happening outside is not the church’s affair, is her philosophy.
Although it may seem obvious that a group of men who are constantly returning with new beggars and with pockets full of money is something to be suspicious about. Other than vulnerable people, Ingvert believes that the help of the Church of Sweden “must be based on respect for the guests [that are] coming.”
“The Church’s mission is to meet the individual and see every human being coming. One can not do that with the suspicion as a starting point.” Ingvert stated.
The trial against the seven Bulgarian beggar bosses began on Tuesday. A man with Swedish citizenship is also prosecuted for aiding. It has not been reported on the ethnicity of the victims. However, in general, it is almost exclusively about the Roma group.
Source: Mats Dagerlind, samnytt.se
Read more: From 2017/09/08