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It is a paradox that Marie Krarup wants to close down a prayer room on South Campus, KUA in the name of ‘spiritual freedom’, Danish-ness and Christianity, argue two theology students
16th December you could read on the University Post that Marie Krarup (Danish People’s Party) does not believe that a retreat room designed for silence, prayer and meditation has anything to do with Christian values, and that it should be closed down because universities should be an environment of intellectual freedom.
As students at University of Copenhagen (UCPH), we just want to inform Marie Krarup that she has nothing to be nervous about. The interfaith ‘retreat room’ at UCPH is in fact an indication that intellectual freedom does indeed thrive at UCPH.
At the same time we also reject Marie Krarup’s attempt to take Christianity hostage in her quest to make Islam wrong. For [as the Danish writer, ed.] Møllehave writes, then “[Jesus Christ, ed.] will delete on Christmas Night those lines and boundaries, that we have drawn”.
The split is by Krarup – not by Christianity. In a world where we have started wars in the name of religion, and where we close borders because we cherish ‘Danishness’, it is important to protect the spaces where differences between people are blurred and where we can assemble together, rather than split up.
And that a space that invites (spiritual) peace, prayer and silence is also an invitation to inclusiveness across religious and ideologies: It invites us to be together because we are human.
That’s exactly why the retreat room has its place at the University. It is clear that if it was used for other things, the problem should be taken care of. But a retreat room is not, in itself, problematic with respect to different religious beliefs.
It seems therefore paradoxical that Marie Krarup wants to close spaces like these in the name of ‘spiritual freedom’, Danishness and Christianity.
It does not immediately appear to promote spiritual freedom to impose on the University a mono-cultural interior design set on specific religious principles.
Furthermore, as theologians, we argue that it is not a particularly Christian way of thinking. And if Krarup equates Danishness with Christian values, it cannot be a particularly Danish way of thinking.
UCPH has not set up a prayer room with a large sign saying ‘Mecca – this direction’ or a pulpit, where anyone can come and missionize. Because at a university it is critical, scientific thinking that takes place. At the same time, one of the most important lessons you learn at university is to deal with – and discuss respectfully – with people you disagree with, both religiously and ideologically.
We will finish our response to Marie Krarup with a wish that she has a Merry Christmas and that one day we will meet up in spite of our different political views and religious beliefs, in one of UCPH’s retreat rooms.