“What have you done or failed to do for one of these?”

Hungarian police form a cordon as refugees board a train for northern Europe. Photo: MTI

Finnish archbishop speaks out against harsh humanitarian cutbacks

HELSINKI, Finland/ GENEVA, 4 September 2015 (LWI) – The Finnish Archbishop Kari Mäkinen has called for solidarity with refugees and encouraged parishes to raise their mission and diakonia allocations. The call from the Archbishop comes in the wake of the decision in July by the Finnish government to cut state funding to non-governmental organizations by 43%.

“This is about values,” the archbishop said in his opening remarks at the Church’s Council for International Relations seminar. “One of the world’s most prosperous countries is telling both its own citizens and the international community: ‘What happens in the rest of the world is not so important. The main thing is that we get by’."

Christ in every one of them

The drastic cut in funding will severely affect humanitarian church organizations, such as the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission and Finn Church Aid.

“But the millions of people who are most affected are struggling with living conditions that are difficult for us to imagine,” Mäkinen said.

Uncertainty and a sense of insecurity lead people to forget the shared humanity in God’s creation, he warned. “Christ is the one for whom clean water in Ethiopia is the question; Christ is the one who speaks about education in Nepal; Christ is the one whose life is saved on the Mediterranean Sea,” the archbishop said. “At the end, when all the books have been opened, the Lord of the Church has but one question: What have you done or failed to do for one of these?”

The archbishop warned churches against taking up the antagonism of domestic charity versus development aid, and encouraged parishes in 2016 to increase their allocation for mission and international diakonia. “The church can lead by example and give a clear message by its own deeds,” he said.

“If we are to be faithful to Our Lord, the church of Christ must fearlessly defend the inalienable and absolute value of each person created and redeemed by God. At all times and everywhere,” Mäkinen stressed.

Wake up to human tragedy

The Lutheran World Federation welcomed the words of the Finnish Archbishop.

Through its Department for World Service, the LWF works with over 2 million refugees in the world on a daily basis, both in the areas they have fled to and those they came from. “The needs are enormous,” LWF World Service Director Maria Immonen said. “It is important that Europe has woken up to the human tragedy on its shores and is beginning to react on a scale that is more appropriate, it is very encouraging.”

“At the same time it is crucial to remember that only a very small percentage of the 60 million refugees in the world even try to come to Europe,” Immonen added. “The vast majority remains in situations which are very difficult, further away from our cameras and media presence. We need to make sure that all refugees, wherever they are, are met with dignity, and their human rights are respected.”

“This crisis is going to be with us for a long time and the increasing humanitarian efforts must be complemented with political efforts to resolve the conflicts that are producing unbearable situations for civilians, and conflict resolution and peace building efforts at all levels need to be emphasised,” Immonen concluded.


Refugee crisis focus:


Support LWF member churches’ work among refugees in Europe. The LWF is running a program through its member church in Italy offering psychosocial support to refugees, collecting funds for the immediate need in central Europe and planning capacity building for member churches to respond to the refugee crisis. To offer support, please donate through your church or alternatively, through the Lutheran World Federation.



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