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How do we talk about faith in Denmark? – presentation by Naser Rezaeih

In Denmark you can be religious without having to shout out your faith, said Naser Rezaeih at a conference for migrant priests last weekend in Middelfart. The presentation was addressed to migrant priests and church leaders, and it concerned how we talk about faith in Denmark.

Participants of the conference.

The participants at the conference. Foto: Tværkulturelt Center 2022

At the conference there was life, joy, and lots of laughter, curious questions and warm smiles as migrant congregations with roots in 30 countries gathered. Several of the pastors from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (ELCD) had also accepted the invitation. As the ELCD has opened its doors to refugees and migrants, there is a growing realization that migrant congregations and the ELCD can learn a lot from each other.

For many, it was the first time they experienced the global Christian church in all its colorful diversity. As a Catholic priest put it: “Of course we are different. Very different. But we also have an infinite amount in common. Here we are one big family.”

Everyone had something to contribute with. Including Naser Rezaeih, who  is leading the ELCD's outreach programme for the farsi speaking community. 

Read also this portrait of Naser Rezaeih:

He gave a presentation that dealt with with how we express and talk about our faith differently. Naser wants an openness towards mutual understanding of each other's differences.

Here in Denmark, faith is often a private matter, and not something you normally talk about that much with your neighbour, colleague, or others. I don't want to criticize this kind of religiosity among Danes, but I am looking to understand that you can be religious and Christian without having to shout out your faith.

In contrast to this, Naser describes his own and other migrant congregations’ expressions of faith: 

We love to talk about Jesus and our faith with family, friends and colleagues. We must continue to do that, because we must not hide our light under a bushel.

But faith is not only expressed in conversations or verbally: "God has equipped us all with different talents, which provide a wonderful variety. Some of us need to preach or share Christianity with others more verbally than practically. Others use their faith practically in the practicalities of humanitarian aid and by supporting people in need. They help and support people who live less privileged than themselves. I would think that most Danish Christians belong to the last group. When ordinary Danes welcome asylum seekers into their homes and provide help, it is spiritual care. They use their own resources to make life a little bit easier for those who need it. In this way, they act according to the Christian commandments of equality, love and humanity, just like the Good Samaritan."

This means that faith is not only something you talk about, but also something you can express with actions, and both are expressed in the churches in Denmark. Naser can therefore end his presentation with the following words:

In Denmark there is room for the big and the small, for believers and non-believers, for rich and less rich, for Danes and 'new Danes'

Read more about the conference on:

The article is written by Tværkulturelt Center (The Intercultural Christian Centre) and Folkekirkens mellemkirkelige Råd (The Council on Interchurch Relations of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark).