The Spånga Church in the immigrant-heavy Stockholm suburb of Tensta has been firebombed, as three Molotov cocktails were thrown at the church, the newspaper Dagen reported.
One firebomb was hurled at the church gate and the other two at the windows, which were smashed.
Despite the bombs penetrating the window panes, the attackers didn't succeed in setting the church premises on fire, as the flames didn't catch on the church's interior.
The police have since cordoned off the area for a technical investigation and classified the crime as arson. So far, no one has been arrested for the attack.
"It is a strong symbolic act", pastor Jerker Alsterlund told national broadcaster SVT about the attack. "I don't know why anyone would want to do this. It can be about arousing disgust or provoking", Alsterlund added.
This is not the first time the Spånga Church has been subjected to violent attacks. In December 2018, an explosive device detonated in one of the church's meeting rooms. No one was convicted of that crime.
"This time it is worse when it is so clearly directed at the church", Jerker Alsterlund said, calling the previous attack "an experiment".
"In these areas, people are more aware that this is a symbolically negative act. You are more sensitive to churches and holy places if you come from regions where religion plays a greater role. So this probably provokes reactions in many people", Alsterlund told Dagen.
The attack was widely lamented on social media.
"Sad! The church of my childhood, where the graves of my parents and many friends lie. Who or what hates and wants to harm our churches?", one user wrote.
Bedrövligt! Min uppväxts kyrka, mina föräldrars och många vänners gravplatser. Vem eller vilka hatar och vill skada våra kyrkor?— Eva Bjuhr (@BjuhrEva) January 20, 2021
Spånga kyrka från 1100-talet ligger precis på gränsen mellan det gamla samhället Spånga och Tensta.
"It is expected. Spånga Church is adjacent to Tensta, Hjulsta, and Rinkeby. How 'symbolic' is the location of the attack?", another one mused.
Det är väntat. Spånga kyrka ligger i anslutning till Tensta,Hjulsta och Rinkeby. Hur "symboliskt" är inte placeringen för attacken?🤨— Christina Sandin (@SandinChristina) January 20, 2021
"Another attack on Christian Sweden. In the Middle East, Christians have long been persecuted. Is this the development we're now also seeing in Sweden?", another one asked rhetorically.
Ännu ett attentat mot det kristna Sverige— Stefan Fahlander (@erik1955viby) January 20, 2021
I Mellanöstern har de kristna länge blivit förföljda. Är det den utvecklingen vi nu även ser i Sverige? Läs mera:https://t.co/RsuEahgsnnhttps://t.co/BdZVejhcSl
Hailing from the 12th century, the Spånga Church is one of the oldest in Stockholm. It is located on the outskirts of Tensta and is flanked by Rinkeby, another notorious district with a heavy presence of immigrants (about 90 percent of the popualtion) and rife with problems. Both areas are dominated by immigrants from Muslim countries and are formally classified as "vulnerable" areas (whereas some prefer the less polite term "no-go zone") due to failed integration and major problems including heavy crime and Muslim radicalism.
Attacks against churches are not uncommon in present-day Sweden. They are often ascribed to people "frustrated with the Christian doctrine" or "angered by society at large". Last year alone, a number of churches were subjected to various types of attacks and vandalism, including those in suburban areas. About a year ago, the Gottsunda Church in Uppsala was set on fire, later in the year the Västra Skrävlinge church was vandalised near the Malmö suburb of Rosengård, both in troubled areas.
In 2019, roughly 3,000 of Europe's churches and other Christian edifices were the target of crimes, the international think tank Gatestone Institute reported in an analysis of vandalism and other crimes targeting churches and Christian monuments in Europe.