June 2020. The sun is shining, and the day is hot. Kista square, situated right between the mosque and the church in Kista outside Stockholm, is buzzling. The mixture of the refreshing smells and the variety in the colors of the summer flowers in the flower shop is formidable. People are coming and leaving the Kista Mall, families are walking with their children, buying fruit from a stand, some of them unfolding umbrellas to protect their children from the burning sun.
I pass tents, people and tables. Different organizations are here, giving seminars, having workshops, doing fun activities or just helping with the grill by the trees. I recognize The Living History Forum. They are showing a movie about the victims of World War II on a big screen to some teenagers and their parents.
I am looking for Liam Sallmander, the project manager for Together for Sweden, and one of the initiators of the summer holidays activities taking place at Kista Square. I don’t really know where to start look for him.
“Hi Faiaz, come over here!” says a happy voice. It is Dina, one of my best friends whom I also call Sis. I quickly walk over to the tent under which there are several tables crammed with juice boxes, paper bags full of fresh bread and other food stuff. I greet her and some other young people in white T-shirts with different logos, most of them TFS (Together for Sweden) or Agera Volunteers, Act Church of Sweden Youth, on the front or back.
I am handed an orange juice and together we continue towards the basketball and football courts where some youngsters are playing passionately, while some others are filming and cheering them. There are several other tents too in the area, more people with white T-shirts are either talking to or helping children, youngsters and adults in different activities.
In one of the tents people are listening to a young girl telling them her story of being the only Jew girl in her high school class. She speaks of the bullying and hardships she had to face everyday.
From the moment I got here until now, I have had a deep feeling of happiness. It feels like I am somehow in a paradise, where there is so much fun happening, so many beautiful smiles and laughters with so much love and harmony and kindness. It almost makes me cry to see how people with different skin colors, religions, age, beliefs and social statues are gathered in one place and are doing things together.
It reminds me of what Liam said yesterday when we were on the phone. “It is time to do things together, not everybody by themselves. That way the process will be more fun, the integration will become easier and we can achieve higher goals.”
The Summer Holiday Activities are arranged by Together for Sweden, Muslim Aid, Church of Sweden Spånga-Kista, Kista Meet (Kista Träff) and Agera Volunteers together with the municipality. It is three weeks of activities in the heart of Kista, a diverse part of Stockholm. The idea to cooperate was born some months ago when Liam contacted Spånga-Kista congregation about his idea and learned they wanted to have summer activities together with Muslim Aid. They had several meetings, made plans and pulled it off.
As William Armah Ljungström from the Agera Volunteers says:
– This is true interreligious work, and I am happy that it happens exactly in the middle of the Kista square so that everybody who wants to participate gets the chance.
Together for Sweden (TFS) is a project which aims to create meetings across cultural and religious boundaries. The project is led by Liam Sallmander, a bright young man who is truly kind. Dina is the educational leader and together with fourteen other young people who work part time with the project she has a close contact with the youth. They work with storytelling, seminars, different workshops and other suitable activities all around Sweden.
When I first joined TFS I asked Liam what the main purpose of the project was, and I remember him saying, “To help youngsters with different religions and beliefs not to feel alone, but included. To decrease racism and discrimination and to make tolerance a norm among people.”
Here he is now. Liam is handing out free hamburgers to hungry kids and passersby. We greet one another with two shiny smiles, and he puts a hamburger on my bread with some chili sauce. I ask him how it is going, and he tells me it is incredibly satisfying, both for them and the participants.
– It is the reaction of the people when they see us working together which makes me most happy. I think this is the beginning of something big, a new norm, something truly good for humanity.
A day at Kista Square starts by gathering the ones working, greeting each other and checking how everybody is doing.
– After that we get started by putting on music, arranging the tents, playgrounds and sitting places under the trees for the ones who don’t want to be in the sun, says Liam.
There is lunch for everybody, children, youth, adults, homeless and whoever is hungry and want some company and food. There is juice and water and if people have money and want to pay some, it is great, otherwise they get everything for free.
The little library in the corner makes the place more cosy and special. Sitting inside it you can see an adult and some kids with their parents, they are having an interesting story yoga session.
According to Liam, Dina and William, it has been a great experience working together to hold such an amazing project. They are all happy and excited about doing more of similar projects in the future.
– The plan is to have a meeting after the summer vacation where we will discuss what else we can do in the future. We are going to have more such activities next summer. And one thing is for sure, this is the beginning of something good and big, says Liam.
The idea was really simple, they wanted to give people a beautiful and meaningful summer. And what else could be more meaningful than working together for the sake of humanity? After all we are all the pieces of the same puzzle who are connected to one another either by chance or by faith. But we complete one another. And by living like good neighbors with love and care for one another, life becomes easier and more fun – and nobody has ever have to feel alone and unwanted. We are all valuable and special in our own ways and should appreciate the existence of one another. Every life matters, every breath is precious. And we are always stronger together.
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Faiaz Dowlatzai is a young author living in Sweden. He is the chairman of The Alliance of Unaccompanied minors in Sweden and works as teacher and student assistant at Vinsta Public School.
To Faiaz fleeing his home country has meant fighting for his life and his future, defeating darkness and death, reaching the light. He says some will succeed, many will not. Faiaz is now writing on the second book in a triology about his and his siblings flight. The first book was published in 2019.