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published yesterday 05:35 PM, updated yesterday 06:12 PM

The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reports on Saturday that widespread sexual abuse, mainly of children, has taken place in Finland’s leading religious community, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church.

More than 20 cases have come to the knowledge of people in the church who have been asked to investigate the matter. Over the decades, the number of victims in church circles is estimated at over 100, and the number of perpetrators is believed to be in the dozens, says child welfare expert Johanna Hurtig. She also believes that the cases that have come to light are but the tip of the iceberg.

The issue has been raised in the wake of sex scandals that have hit the Roman Catholic Church in a number of countries. Last week, leaders of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church urged possible victims of abuse to come forward.

Martti Esko, the director of the family affairs council of the church says that some clergy and other church workers are among the suspects. He says that youth work is the area where the number of cases is the highest. In two cases from many years back, a victim claims that a bishop at the time had downplayed the matter and covered it up.

In addition, about ten lay preachers of the Laestadian revival movement are suspected of abuse. in the past year six Laestadian men have been convicted of sexual abusel. Some of the convictions brought prison sentences of 8 – 12 years, which suggests that the act was very serious, according to Helsingin Sanomat.


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