As head of World Service department, Immonen leads emergency response and long-term development work
(LWI) - Maria Immonen, director of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) department for World Service, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Helsinki in her native Finland on 9 June in recognition of her long career in international aid serving people in countries around the world.
In nominating Immonen for this academic honor, the selection committee noted that she is the first woman to hold the role of leading the LWF’s "extensive humanitarian and development work, focused on the most vulnerable and on global responsibility.”
Immonen, who hold a Master of Arts from the university, was among eight women and men awarded the honorary doctorates that are presented “on the basis of both social and humanitarian merits.” Other recipients of the 2023 honoris causa degrees include former LWF President and Bishop Emeritus Munib Younan, as well as the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
On behalf of all our member churches and country programs, I thank Maria for her dedication and service to those most in need.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt
Congratulating Immonen, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt said: “Since 2014, Maria has been leading LWF’s World Service department, significantly raising the profile of our work to support vulnerable communities and to uphold the rights of every individual, regardless of their status, ethnicity, religion or gender. On behalf of all our member churches and country programs around the world, I thank her for her dedication and service to those most in need.”
Responding to the announcement of the awards earlier this year, Immonen said: “I am honored and deeply touched to be recognized this way by my old university for the work I have done throughout my life in the field of human rights, humanitarian assistance, and long-term development.”
“I take it as a recognition that work to promote the human rights of those most marginalized in our world today, who live in conflict and climate impacted parts of the world where there are no cameras, is important to Finnish society and the values we hold and wish to promote. A world in which all human beings are treated equally and whose rights are recognized no matter where they are, and what circumstances they are born into,” she added.
LWF World Service is the LWF’s humanitarian and development arm. Mandated by the 149 Lutheran member churches of the communion, World Service works in 27 countries worldwide, serving 3.2 million people in need.