The story began in the 1990s when Sweden’s two main Orthodox traditions the Byzantine and the Syriac were invited to send only one representative to the Christian Council in Sweden to represent them both. They realized that they had to work together more closely than they had done before and that to do so they needed education to help them to learn about one another and to work together more effectively. They turned for help to the educational organization Bilda.
Eventually the Churches decided that they needed their own educational organization which was focused on the Orthodox situation and experience and in 2012 they established the Sankt Ignatios Foundation. The Foundation set up the Sankt Ignatios Folkhögskola
A Folkhögskola is a special institution, unique to Sweden. The literal translation into English is a “People’s University” and that sums up what the Folkhögskola is all about – an educational institution that provides a wide range of educational opportunities to people of all backgrounds whatever their previous educational experience.
Initially, Sankt Ignatios Folkhögskola found a home as part of Botkyrka Folkhögskola and in 2016 we became independent, state-funded Folkhögskola and established our own campus in Södertälje providing both a general education program for adults, especially immigrants to Sweden and a theological and pastoral educational program for those who wanted to become priests deacons and church educators in the Orthodox Churches in Sweden and beyond. Now, the Foundation is a collaboration between four Orthodox Churches, the Byzantine (Greek and Slavic) the Syriac, the Coptic and the Tewahedo (Eritrean-Ethiopian).
The next major step was our collaboration with the Stockholm School of Theology (University College Stockholm) one of Scandanavia’s most prestigious theological schools. In 2018 Sankt Ignatios and Stockholm School of Theology entered into a collaboration which led to the establishment of the Department of Eastern Christian Studies at Stockholm School of Theology. This meant that for the first time within a university environment in Sweden, students could study Eastern Christian Studies at a high academic level.
Now student environment for all our students on vocational programs, special programs and courses, as well as on academic programs is provided by Sankt Ignatios College. All students on these courses are registered in the College, whether they are studying courses at Sankt Ignatios Folkhögskola, Stockholm School of Theology or from both.
At the same time our general education course has continued to flourish and we now educate around 60 students on the program, most of whom have come as immigrants to Sweden and who are preparing themselves for work in Sweden. Our students are working towards a standard Swedish education (gymnasium). The community at our education centre in Hovsjö is truly international and a place where men and women, young and old and people from different religious backgrounds are united in their search for education.