Displaying items by tag: Finland
Last week we celebrated the Finnish district court clearing an MP and her Pastor of all hate speech charges over their beliefs on sexuality, declaring that ‘it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts’. (See) Then on the 11th April the media reports that the prosecutors will reportedly appeal that verdict.
How should we respond to a world that is increasingly estranged from Christian beliefs? This is a question that Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola are confronted with. Last year, Ms Räsänen was accused of “hate speech” for publicly voicing her deeply-held beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. The former minister of the interior, mother of five, and grandmother of seven now faces a daunting trial on 24 January in Helsinki. Rev. Dr Pohjola, who was consecrated as a Lutheran bishop in August 2021, assumes his new role at a very challenging time. He faces criminal prosecution with Ms Räsänen for publishing the pamphlet she wrote on human sexuality for his church congregation. Pray for a just outcome of their trial, that no one would be intimidated into silence, but that people would be encouraged to share their beliefs with confidence.
Parliament member Päivi Räsänen faces six years in prison for sharing her biblical beliefs on sexuality and marriage. Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola was charged with one count of ethnic agitation for publishing Räsänen’s booklet. Finish prosecutors said Räsänen’s statements disparage and discriminate against LGBT individuals and foment intolerance and defamation. The mother of five maintains her expressions are legal and should not be censored. ‘I cannot accept that voicing my religious beliefs could mean imprisonment. I do not consider myself guilty of threatening, slandering or insulting anyone. My statements were based on the Bible’s teachings on marriage and sexuality.’ Six members of Congress have condemned Finland for prosecuting Räsänen, and said the USA should consider these prosecutions when advising on countries placed on a watch list of countries engaging in religious freedom violations.
FELM, a Finnish Christian missionary group, has cut ties with Palestinian children's rights NGO Defence for Children International-Palestine. Mr Stefansson, the charity's executive director, said they had concerns about possible banking sanctions of DCIP who are one of six Palestinian groups accused by Israel of channelling donor aid to militants and labelled as a terrorist organisation. The six accused groups have close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which carries out deadly attacks on Israelis and is on US and EU terrorism blacklists. DCIP rejects the charge and says it has asked FELM to reconsider cutting funds. Steffansson said it is impossible to maintain ties with the group as, ‘It could have impacted the work we do in 30 countries through banking services.’ DCIP relies on European aid to fund its advocacy and rights monitoring work in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Law professors have urged the US commission on international religious freedom to intervene for the Finnish Christian MP, Pavi Räsänen, who faces criminal charges for tweeting her views on marriage and sexuality. The bishop-elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission also faces prosecution for publishing a booklet in which Ms Räsänen made similar comments. The professors ask the commission to ‘press our government to use its legal powers and fulfil its duties under US law to aid victims of human rights violations such as Pavi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana.’ The prosecutor general’s pursuit of these charges sends an unmistakable message to all Finns: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment if they openly express their moral and religious convictions.
Former government minister and current MP Päivi Räsänen is charged over her tweet about homosexuality, when she posted a picture of her Bible open at Romans 1:24-27 which describes homosexuality as 'shameful'. In the post she questioned the decision of the church of which she is a member to support a gay pride event. Following complaints, police questioned her and launched an investigation. This resulted in her being charged over the tweet, and also comments made on TV in 2018 and a pamphlet about marriage which she wrote in 2004. All charges are linked to 'hate speech'. Vowing to fight the charges, Ms Räsänen said, ‘I will go to court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which are guaranteed both in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected.’
Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen was chair of the Christian Democrats from 2004 to 2015; as interior minister she had responsibility for church affairs. On 2 March she faced a police investigation because of a tweet she posted last year directed at the leadership of her church, questioning its sponsorship of the LGBT event ‘Pride 2019’, and quoting a Bible text. After a lengthy police interview last November, she now faces a second interrogation about a pamphlet she wrote 16 years ago on human sexuality for a Christian foundation. These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming common throughout Europe. In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. Finland has a number of laws to regulate speech, including the ‘ethnic agitation’ law which carries a prison sentence of up to two years.
Last week it was reported that the Arctic Sea is breaking up for the first time on record, and we prayed for nations to acknowledge climate change and seek ways to turn it around. The acceleration of climate change has greater impact on the Arctic region than elsewhere, posing serious threats to the sensitive environment and those who depend on it. Good cooperation is needed between researchers, public authorities, companies, and Arctic inhabitants. Pray for the adoption of a new kind of climate-resilient thinking. Further development is needed in flood warning systems and dam safety. In response to these needs, and as part of its 2017-2019 chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Finland will be hosting the first Arctic Resilience Forum on 10-11 September 2018.
EU officials supervise and fund the Palestinian Authority (PA) education system. A series of Helsinki talks examined the new PA curriculum and agreed that the new textbooks stir up further radicalisation and hatred. They concluded that radicalisation is persistent throughout the curriculum, grooming children for martyrdom and jihad war, with a fundamentalist worldview. ‘This curriculum is not only a catastrophe for Palestinian youth but also for the reputation of the Finnish education system, as the curriculum was reviewed under the supervision of Finnish experts and officials,’ said the spokesperson for the EU consultations. An elementary mathematics book asks, ‘If the number of martyrs from the first intifada is X and the number of martyrs from the second intifada is Y, what is the total number of martyrs?’ In basic physics, Newton’s law of gravity is explained by a picture of a young Palestinian aiming a slingshot at an Israeli officer. See