Sputniknews – September 2016
The Danish capital of Copenhagen may see its first ‘religion-free’ ceremonial hall, which would allow both believers and non-believers to celebrate various rituals and important transitions in life.
Copenhagen City Hall seems to be ready to spend five million DKK (roughly $800,000) on a “faith-neutral” church, which would be open to believers and non-believers alike. According to Tommy Petersen of the Social Liberal Party, the idea has been on the table since 2009 and money has already been spent on a preliminary design, the Danish newspaper Politiken reported. The plan is to allow Copenhageners to book the ceremony room in advance, which they expect to be able to run without municipal subsidies.
“Copenhagen dwellers who are not a members of a religious community have become increasingly ‘homeless’ faith-wise, in the sense that they themselves have create a new framework for baptism, the transition from childhood to adolescence, marriages and funerals. We want to make room for diversity in Copenhagen,” Tommy Petersen told Politiken. The proposal, worked out by Svendborg Architects, suggests converting storage rooms for funeral urns at Bispebjerg Cemetery, which have fallen into disuse, into a “faith-neutral” shrine, which would be completely stripped of any religious symbolism and based on three main values — solemnity, dignity and neutrality. “There is nothing similar anywhere in the world and with such a place, Denmark would become a landmark of diversity,” Anna Balk Møller, a spokesperson for Ceremonirum Association, which has been working on “faith-free space,” told Politiken. “Instead of focusing on how we differ, we want to focus on what we have in common, and that is that people across cultures have a need to mark major transitions in life,” she elaborated.
The idea was backed by The Danish Atheist Society, which was earlier this year blamed for instigating a mass exodus from the Danish Church with a major anti-religious campaign, as well as the country’s Humanist Community, which organizes non-religious rituals.
“Today, there are many church-goers who say yes to things, but don’t really believe,” Anders Stjernholm, the chairman of the Danish Atheist Society, told Politiken, adding that “it is a shame that they cannot find a place that matches their views.” “Everyone has a need for the ritualization of the various transitions in life, even if they are not religious,” Lone Ree Milkær, the chairperson of the Humanist Community, added.
The need for rituals and ceremonies despite clear ties with major religions did not surprise researcher Else Marie Kofod, Head of the National Collection Department at the Royal Library.
“If you want to stay outside the Christian framework, which for many years has been the only option, then you have chapels where religious symbols could be completely avoided,” Kofod said. In another remarkable effort to circumvent traditional religion, a women-only mosque was opened in Copenhagen earlier this year. The female mosque, which was hailed as a courageous effort to modernize Islam, is run by Imam Sherin Khankhan. According to her, Mariam Mosque is a “feminist project” to help Muslim women.