The Swedish army is a bit of a mystery to me. A compulsory year of military service has existed in Sweden for many years, although it is not hard to avoid based on personal conscience, although then a year of civil service is expected. However, despite this the Swedish army has not been involved in an armed conflict for hundreds of years, though they have been involved in peacekeeping duties in various places.
Two articles caught my attention today. The first was about the possible deployment of a few hundred Swedish peacekeepers to Darfur, along with some Norwegians. The decision has not yet been finalised, but apparently the offer has been made. I take it most of the UN peacekeepers in Darfur are Africans, so the 400 Scandinavians would certainly stand out. An interesting comment in the Reuters article made mention of Swedish ideas about “peacekeeping:”
“I think the Swedish people have an overly romantic view of peacekeeping,” said Jan Winter, an experienced correspondent and former foreign desk head for Swedish national newswire TT. “They don’t realise that peacekeepers can be hated and attacked.”
The other article was from the ABC (Australia) and mentioned the reality of violence in Darfur, where ten peacekeepers were killed by rebels a week or so ago.
The stark contrast between our comfortable, protected and supported life here in Sweden and the harsh realities of violence and hatred in Africa, was brought home to me yet again. It will be tough for the Scandinavian soldiers, if they do end up in Darfur. But how much tougher for the local inhabitants in that war torn and poverty stricken nation who have no safe and secure bolt hole to return to, who in fact have nothing to return to and a future only of uncertainty, fear, poverty and death. Where is their hope in the midst of such suffering?