On June 26, 2009, seven-year old Domenic Johansson was seated in a commercial airliner with his parents awaiting departure of a flight to India. Domenic is a dual citizen of Sweden and India.
Though the family had received no prior warning, Swedish authorities boarded the plane just minutes before take-off, forcibly removing Domenic from the custody of his parents and placing him in foster care.
Domenic is a citizen of India, and his mother’s family all live in India. However, Swedish Social Services in Domenic's home town of Gottland decided to prevent the departure in order to force the boy to attend their school.
The family had received no preliminary warning, nor had they been forbidden from leaving the country.
The tragic saga began the year before when Domenic was six and his father, Christer Johannson, contacted the Swedish Ministry of Education to inquire about home education.
Social Services’ only purpose in removing Domenic from the airplane was to prevent him moving to India . Christer Johannson is Swedish, while his wife, Annie Johansson, is a citizen of India. Because they were planning on relocating to India soon to be with Annie’s family, Christer thought it would be best to homeschool Domenic during the interim. While Christians, the parents were not committed to homeschooling for ideological reasons and had even planned on putting their son in the public school once they reached India.
Annie has two Masters Degrees and is highly qualified in the task of educating her son. Moreover, homeschooling was not illegal in Sweden at the time.
When Mr. Johansson got in touch with the Swedish Ministry of Education to inquire about home education, the Ministry told him to contact his local school principal in order to obtain the necessary curriculum. However, when Mr. Johannson contacted the principal of the nearest public school, the principal refused to provide the materials, saying “You don’t have the right to educate your son and I will be taking this further.”
What the principal meant by “taking it further” was that the family would be reported to the social services. Mr. Johansson didn’t know that at the time, but he did know that the Ministry of Education, Swedish law and Europe’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights all allowed them to homeschool. So he and Annie began homeschooling Domenic.
Officials at the local school district were furious about this and called Mr. Johansson before a hearing of the Child and Education Department.
During the hearing Mr. Johansson explained to the judge that the family was planning on relocating to India in six weeks to be with Annie’s family. It did not make sense to keep Domenic in the state school only to withdraw him shortly afterwards. The judge replied, “Ok, fine” and asked for the date of travel.
No court order was issued prohibiting the family from leaving the country. Domenic is a dual citizen of Sweden and India and had every right to accompany his parents on the move. Thus, Christer and Annie were shocked when the authorities boarded the airliner and forcibly removed Domenic.
(In the above picture, Domenic is on the airplane watching as police board to put him into foster care.)
Social Services’ only purpose in removing Domenic from the airplane was to prevent him moving to India where he would be outside the jurisdiction of the Swedish state schools. He was not truant from school at the time because it was summer break. As the Alliance Defence fund have pointed out in their application of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights:
“Domenic Johansson was removed from that plane only because social services believed it knew better than his parents what was in Domenic’s best interest; a belief steeped in discrimination against their religious and philosophical beliefs with regard to Domenic’s upbringing and education…Swedish officials removed this boy from an international flight solely to prevent his parents from moving to another nation and from educating him in a manner that is lawful in India, in Sweden, and in a majority of nations…
"please let me come home"
For the Johansson family, that was just the beginning of their troubles. After having their son snatched from their custody, the immediate problem was how to get Domenic back.
Christer and Annie were only able to visit their son, now in foster care, for one hour every five weeks.
They soon faced a new dilemma. The visits with their son were allowed to continue but only on the condition that they pretend to their son that they did not want him to come home with them and were happy for him to be in foster care. Social Services said they would lose visitation rights forever if they did not keep up the pretense.
During every visit there was always a social worker in the room, listening to every word and taking notes.
I interviewed a man who spoke to Christer last September when this was going on. He said:
"In September Christer expressed his frustration to me that social services was putting extreme pressure on him and his wife to pretend to Domenic that they don't want him back and that they are happy with his current custodial arrangement, in order to be allowed to have continued visitation.
Christer said that the requirement to pretend to be happy with the situation was putting a great deal of additional mental and emotional stress on his family, beyond what you would expect from the situation itself.
After 18 months, the Johannsens finally exhausted all the legal appeals available to them in the Swedish court system. They hired one of the best human rights lawyers in Europe, but the judge dismissed her from the case. Last December, the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden rejected their final appeal on the grounds that by preventing the family moving to India, the court was protecting Domenic's “right to education.”
Meanwhile, it became increasingly difficult for Christer and Annie to keep lying to their son.
Every time the visits occurred, Domenic would ask, "please let me come home." And every time the parents were forced to try to pretend that they didn’t want Domenic back.
Christer knew what often happened to other Swedish children in foster care, and worried for his son’s safety. In Daniel Hammarberg's shocking exposé of the Swedish social services, The Madhouse: A Critical Study of Swedish Society, Hammarberg gives alarming evidence of what happens to the mental health of children like Domenic who have been taken away from their parents. (To read excerpts from the book, click here. To get the book on Kindle, click here.) Some of victims of the Swedish Social Services, such as 13 year old Elin, have even committed suicide.
This put the parents in an agonizing position. Should they continue to lie to their son and destroy his faith in the only two human beings in this world that truly love him? Or should they tell Domenic the truth – that they love him and want him back?
After an agonizing time, Christer decided to tell his son the truth and suffer the consequences. So just last week during visitation, Domenic once again begged his father to take him home. This time, instead of lying, Christer said, “ok, let's go.” The social workers in Sweden are unarmed so there was nothing they could do to stop him from walking out of the visitation room with Domenic.
Domenic was able to spend a beautiful day and a half with his parents and grandparents, whom he had not seen in 18 months. During this time Christer and Annie explained to Domenic the truth. They explained that they had not rejected him, that they loved him and had been fighting for his freedom for the last 18 months. They told him that whatever happened they would always love him.
“Held Hostage” by the Government
The police wasted no time. When they found out where the family was, several squad cars descended upon the Johansson home. Armed police swept in, dragging Domenic out into the unseasonably frigid temperatures without even giving him an opportunity to get his jacket. Christer was thrown into jail, charged with kidnapping his own son. He faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
Domenic loved his parents and grandparents. He had a rich and happy childhood and was well provided for by his intelligent Christian parents. However, in Sweden it is the State that is the ultimate parent. Drunk with a sense of their own omnipotence, Swedish Social Services could not let the family move to India for the simple reason that they would then no longer be able to force Domenic to attend their state schools.
“I have never in 20 years of practice seen a case more badly handled,” commented Harrold-Claaesson, a noted international human rights lawyer and president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights. She continued:
“This family has been so traumatized that they may never recover. The Swedish government has grossly violated this family’s human rights, both under Swedish law and under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Under the ECHR people have the right to leave their country. But in this case the social services took this poor little boy and prevented him from leaving with his parents. He is being held a hostage—essentially kidnapped by the Swedish government. It is an absolute embarrassment for Sweden and for every person involved in this case. Each person, from the social workers to the judges, should be ashamed of their behavior and their continuing callousness towards this family. They all must be brought to justice for their crimes against the Johansson family.”Domenic will be released from foster care when he is 18, around the same time that Christer is scheduled to get out of prison.
Can Anything Be Done to Help?
Currently both the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) are examining all available avenues to help reunite the family. However, short of a miracle, it is unlikely that anything can be done. So we must pray for a miracle.
It is just possible that if enough international pressure is brought to bear on the Swedish government, that they will be forced to re-evaluate their decision. We need as many people as possible to contact their nearest Swedish Embassy to express their concern. Also, contact your nearest Indian Embassy to ask if anything is being done about this on their side.
Contact your nearest Swedish Embassy to express your concerns
Contact your nearest Indian Embassy to express your concerns
Donate money through paypal. All donations go directly to the Johanssons to help as they fight for justice. Information about how to donate can be found on the Friends of Domenic website.
Click here to sign petition to return Domenic to his parents.
Click here to register your support of the ‘Return Dominic To His Parents’ campaign on facebook.
Contact Swedish Social Services officials, or simply paste all of these Social Services addresses in your email TO box:
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Send letters of encouragement to Christer in prison. He is fluent in English. To do so, follow these instructions.
First, place your letter/postcard in an envelope. On that envelope write:
To Christer Johansson, 690615-3231
Next, place this envelope into another envelope and on this outer envelope write this address:
Klient och säkerhetsenheten
SE–601 80 Norrköping
Once received, Kriminalvården will send your letter to Gotland and will see that it is delivered to Christer.
To contact Annie to, who is also fluent in English, write to
c/o Rune Johansson
Alva Gudings 363
623 46 Hemse
Above all, keep this family in your prayers, including Annie (the only member of the family who hasn’t been abducted) who has been in the hospital several times for treatment of depression (hardly surprising!) and a heart condition.
You can also read more about the Johansson family's struggle and get links to other articles about it on the Friends of Domenic Blog.
Also read the Alliance Defence Fund’s document about the case and the LifeSiteNews.com report. Also read the HSLD report on the case.
A modified version of this article will be appearing in the monthly magazine of Christian Voice , a UK ministry whose website is http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/. The article is reprinted here with permission.
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