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Other religious and non-religious groups

Buddhism

The history of Buddhist influences in Finland and Scandinavia can most probably be tracked to far back in time of the culture contacts made by Vikings. The Buddhist cultural heritage was, (...)

The history of Buddhist influences in Finland and Scandinavia can most probably be tracked to far back in time of the culture contacts made by Vikings. The Buddhist cultural heritage was, however, spread into a public knowledge in Finland at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Collections of Buddhist teachings were translated into Finnish in 1906 and around the same time Buddhist influences of theravāda school were spread with the local branches of the Theosophical Society. Interest in Theosophy had risen especially among the labour movement and among some significant Finnish artist of the time. The first registered Buddhist community was established in 1947, when the Friends of Buddhism was originated. At the first decades, an important part of the public work of the association was publishing books and translations. While there have been some more quiet periods, the association is still continuing as Bodhidharma. By the end of the 1980s there were five established Buddhist communities. In the 21st century, there has been a significant increase in the number of Buddhist groups and people engaged in Buddhism. At the same time, the Buddhist cultural field has become fragmented to numerous small communities. The increase of people practising Buddhism is particularly due to immigrants with Buddhist backgrounds who have come to Finland. There has also been increased interest of Finnish people to the Buddhist thinking and specifically to meditation.

By the end of 2019, there were 13 Buddhist communities and altogether 1792 members in those communities, but the number of people practising Buddhism is significantly bigger. The biggest community is the Vietnamese Buddhist community in Finland with 676 members. Geographically the Buddhist communities are located mainly in the cities and especially at the metropolitan area.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Hinduism

There are four Hindu communities with altogether 367 members, but the estimated number of Hindus in Finland is around 6000. Selections of Hindu teachings gained some ground in Finland first (...)

There are four Hindu communities with altogether 367 members, but the estimated number of Hindus in Finland is around 6000. Selections of Hindu teachings gained some ground in Finland first through theosophy in the beginning of the 20th century, but Hindu rituals and devotional life only started to receive interest among Finnish people in the 1970s. This happened through new religious movements that had been started in America in the 1960s. Even though these movements had their base in Hindu teachings, their followers did not usually consider themselves Hindus. In the beginning of the 1980s, the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) started in Finland, not gaining many official members but, unlike other movements, it also had some Indian Hindus living in Finland as participants. The movement also maintains a Hindu temple that was the only Hindu temple in Finland for a long time. Increased immigration has gradually led to the formation of ethnic Hindu communities. The largest of these is the Finnish Hindus (in Finnish, Suomen hindut) that has a small temple in Helsinki, close to the ISKCON temple. The majority of the Finnish Hindus are Tamils who have moved from Sri Lanka and India. Hindu traditions are found in the background of popular yoga practices, but yoga in Finland is often influenced by many Western traditions as well. Depending on the yoga school, they may involve religious elements like reciting as part of the practice or have Hindu statues or images at the studio. The great majority of yoga practitioners do not consider that their practice has anything to do with religion, not to speak of Hinduism.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Sikhism

The Gurdwara community in Finland was established and registered as a religious community in 1998. Since 2006 the community has had Gurdwara in Helsinki with 50-100 Sikhs regularly attending (...)

The Gurdwara community in Finland was established and registered as a religious community in 1998. Since 2006 the community has had Gurdwara in Helsinki with 50-100 Sikhs regularly attending (2008). However, it has been estimated that that at least 700 Sikhs live in Finland, most of them having moved from India and being now located in Helsinki and Vantaa. In 2020 there were two Sikh communities with 54 members.

Some other religious movements influenced by Sikhism have, however, operated in Finland. At the turn of 1972 and 1973, Divine Light Mission (DLM) movement held some public events in Finland and operated later especially in Turku, Finland. DLM, later renamed as Elan Vital, is part of Sant Mat tradition that was born in India. There has also been a Sant Mat meditation group in Helsinki.

Read more:
Hirvi, Laura (2010) The Sikh gurdwara in Finland: negotiating, maintaining and transmitting immigrants’ identities. South Asian Diaspora, 2:2, 219-232.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to Finland for the first time in the 1870s from Sweden. However, it became established in the Finnish society only soon after the Second World (...)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to Finland for the first time in the 1870s from Sweden. However, it became established in the Finnish society only soon after the Second World War. Church opened their mission field in Finland officially in autumn 1947 and it was registered as an official religious community in Finland in 1948. First it was led by American missionaries until later being handed over to its Finnish members. Even though the public image of the church is strongly American because of its missionaries, the local membership has a wide-ranging profile of Finnish people represented in profession-wise, education-wise, and political opinion-wise. The biggest growth in the membership of the church happened at the turn of the 1950s and ’60s. Especially in the beginning, the vast majority of the members were women. A significant milestone for the church in Finland was in 2006 when a temple building was completed in Espoo. The church has many parish centres around Finland but the temples for the holy rituals are rare in the world: there were altogether about 150 temples in 2016. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 30 congregations and 3259 members (2015) in Finland.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Bahá’í communities

Bahá’í landed in Finland in the 1930s. Around 900 Bahá’ís live in over 60 cities and there is already the 4th generation of Bahá’ís living in Finland. The first Bahá’í visiting Finland was an American (...)

Bahá’í landed in Finland in the 1930s. Around 900 Bahá’ís live in over 60 cities and there is already the 4th generation of Bahá’ís living in Finland. The first Bahá’í visiting Finland was an American journalist, Martha Root, who in 1927 told about Bahá’í belief in a public event and in meetings with officials and journalists. In 1950 the first local councils and the Finnish Bahá’í Centre were established. The centre is still located at the same place in Helsinki.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Indigenous religions / neo-paganism

Already in the 1980s-1990s groups connected to neo-shamanism and Wicca spread from abroad to Finland. Pagan groups were small and scattered, and their continuation was in the hands of individual (...)

Already in the 1980s-1990s groups connected to neo-shamanism and Wicca spread from abroad to Finland. Pagan groups were small and scattered, and their continuation was in the hands of individual people. Since the late 1990s pagan movement grew, diversified and spread due to multiplication of TV shows and movies, and this had influence also in Finland. Internet made it possible to create united networks, providing a new sense of belonging to the scattered individuals and groups.

The term ‘pagan’ has still a rather negative echo in Finland and it can be used to describe a person who, for example, is an atheist, unreligious, or does not share the common Christian world view and supposedly not the same values either. However, ‘pagan’ has lately been also appearing as a religious identity of a person or a group, giving a name to a very specific type of world view. Wicca is one example of the pagan movements that have landed in Finland, too. Inspiration, models, and narratives are often searched from pre-Christian traditions and from the traditions of indigenous people as well as from other cultures, myths, and legends. In Finland pagans are still a very marginal group, with 35 official members (2015), as there is a compilation of statistics on only one group called ‘People of the Bear’ (in Finnish: Karhun kansa). It practises Finnish traditions by respecting ancestors and spirits of the nature and by upholding the traditions. It was registered as a religious community in 2013, giving paganism an official status as a religion.

People of the Bear and other pagan associations create and uphold networks, arrange and coordinate bigger yearly events, and advocate causes they find important such as protecting old, holy places. Strong connection to nature is a specific link to paganism in Finland. Local units of the associations and other groups arrange regular meetings and yearly celebrations and rituals. Some of these are open for public and others only for the members of the associations or for smaller groups. Activities are arranged at least in every university city, but throughout the country there are some individual pagans and those who are in smaller groups, with a variety of how much they have connections to Finnish or international groups and associations.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Anglican churches

The Anglican Church in Finland is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and part of the Diocese in Europe. The Church of England is the originator and mother church of the communion. The (...)

The Anglican Church in Finland is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and part of the Diocese in Europe. The Church of England is the originator and mother church of the communion. The Anglican Church in Finland started its work in the 1920s having its roots in the Russian Revolution where the church of Peter escaped to West. Some of those escaping settled in Helsinki, where the Anglican church was established and where St Nicholas’s Anglican church is still located. From the very start the church was multilingual and -cultural. There are around 195 members (2019) in the Anglican church, but more people are participating in the worship and life of the church. The church gathers in different cities in association with the Evangelical Lutheran church of Finland.

The Lutheran Church and Anglicans established a communion with the Porvoo Common Statement agreed to on 13 October 1992 in Järvenpää, Finland. The Porvoo Communion is an association of fifteen predominantly Evangelical Lutheran and Anglican churches. They have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service”. The churches celebrated their first Eucharist together at Porvoo Cathedral in the city of Porvoo. The common statement was made because the churches found themselves with essential similarities in their histories, faith, sacramental life and ministry, while also facing similar challenges in the contemporary society. The Porvoo Declaration allows for mutual Eucharistic hospitality, occasional joint celebrations of the Eucharist, and a limited degree of sharing ordained ministry.

Find out more: St Nicholas’s Anglican Church, Helsinki.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Neo-spirituality

Finnish neo-spirituality has often followed and been influenced by international trends. Neo-spiritual trends became visible in 1970s Finland and gained more popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. (...)

Finnish neo-spirituality has often followed and been influenced by international trends. Neo-spiritual trends became visible in 1970s Finland and gained more popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. People interested in parapsychology, theosophy, and various alternative philosophies of life established an association that aimed at advancing the flow of information and activities between different neo-spiritual associations and influencers. Since 1983 the association,’The Fringe Knowledge Cooperation Association’ (in Finnish: Rajatieto yhteistyö), has organised the biggest neo-spiritual event in Finland ‘The Fair for Spirit and Knowledge’ (in Finnish: Hengen ja Tiedon Messut). The yearly event gathers approximately 3 000-5 000 visitors, offering numerous lectures on various subjects and having around two hundred exhibitors presenting products, services, and information on neo-spiritual themes and organisations.

One of the most popular neo-spiritual magazines, Ultra, covers the areas of ufology, parapsychology, alternative therapies, astrology, meditation techniques, and ecological lifestyle. Yearly there are also Ultra-days organized with lectures and other activities. The first event was in 1976. There are also other magazines that touch some neo-spiritual themes but focuses more on different aspects of well-being. Furthermore, there is a publishing company and event producer, Viisas elämä (“Wise Life”). For over two decades, it has published literature with neo-spiritual themes on, for example, meditation, different religious philosophies and general well-being. While yoga and meditation have become part of the everyday life for an increasing number of Finns, interest towards clairvoyance and “channelling” is significantly smaller. At the same time, so-called visualisation and positive thinking have found their way to the realm of business and sports.

As there are often influences of other religions in neo-spirituality, also the so-called angel belief is sometimes seen as being influenced by Christianity. It has landed to Finland especially through the Great Britain and United States, and the first widely known neo-spiritual agent of angel faith is British Diana Cooper. Cooper’s book on angels was translated into Finnish in 2002, and several other agents of angel faith have visited Finland.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Western esotericism

Communities that are seen to be part of Western esotericism vary greatly from one another in their views. From the viewpoint of history of religion and culture, there are 37 communities in (...)

Communities that are seen to be part of Western esotericism vary greatly from one another in their views. From the viewpoint of history of religion and culture, there are 37 communities in Finland that have their foundation in esoteric tradition.

The Christian Community (in Finnish: Kristiyhteisö) in Finland is one of the esoteric communities. It was established in 1967 by a teacher, Helmer Knutar, who had attended a seminary of the Christian community in Stuttgart. The Christian community was registered as a religious community in 1969 and in 2015 there were 290 members in the community. The Christian Community is linked to the anthroposophical movement of Rudolf Steiner that has its roots in theosophical movement. Steiner schools have an established status in the Finnish society with 24 schools, but many parents who have their kids in those schools do not have an anthroposophical conviction. Theosophy has arrived in Finland already in the 1890s and the Theosophical Society was established in Helsinki in 1907. Theosophical influence can be found from various esoteric associations, and many non-Christian religious views have reached Finland through the Theosophical Society. Some esoteric associations, however, hold Christian views central to their teachings.

Furthermore, the international Freemason association Le Droit Humain spread to Finland from Denmark in 1920 and grew fast in the 1920s. The national alliance was established in 1928 and registered in 1929. Pekka Ervast (1875-1934), one of the founders of the Theosophical Society in Finland, was the leader of the Finnish Freemason Association from 1920 to 1928.

The Free Catholic Church was registered as a religious community in 1929. The church has drawn on theosophy but it highlights the Roman Catholic tradition. In 1957 it got its own bishop in Finland. There were 139 members in the church in 2015.

Moreover, in the beginning of the 1900s some English psychics visited Finland and the first spiritualistic associations were established in 1909 to Helsinki and Tampere. The Finnish Spiritual Society was founded in 1946 by a writer and translator Helmi Krohn (1871-1967). Spiritualism has interested women in particular. The society has around 1 500 members. Also, parapsychology landed Finland around the same time with spiritualism. The roots of the parapsychological society are in a community established in 1907, Sällskapet för Psykisk Forskning (SPF), that started parapsychological research. Nowadays its sister organisation, Parapsychological Research Society (Suomen parapsykologinen tutkimusseura, SPT), established in 1938, continues the same discussions, as the operation of SPF has faded. It is also linked to the neo-spirituality in Finland (see Neo-spirituality).

The esoteric associations established from the 1990s onward have mainly young adults as their participants, while the older associations have more aged membership. Committed practice of esoteric religiousness is quite rare. At the same time some phenomena having to do with occulture influence in the Finnish culture.

Source:
Illman, Ruth & Ketola, Kimmo & Latvio, Riitta & Sohlberg, Jussi (ed.) (2017) Monien uskontojen ja katsomusten Suomi. Tampere: Church Research Institute.

D 24 June 2021    AAnita Sipilä

Anglo-American Christianity

Anglo-American Christianity spread to Finland in the second half of the 19th century, and a number of Protestant denominations, among them Baptists, Methodists, the Salvation Army and Adventists, (...)

Anglo-American Christianity spread to Finland in the second half of the 19th century, and a number of Protestant denominations, among them Baptists, Methodists, the Salvation Army and Adventists, became established in the country. Relief work and mission work have been two of the key values in most denominations from the very beginning. Although support for these churches has gradually increased, their combined membership remains under 1% of the total population. Growth has been greatest in the Pentecostal movement, which reached Finland at the beginning of the 20th century and now has an estimated membership of 50,000. Most Pentecostal parishes are independent units and only in 2002 Pentecostals in Finland formed a religious community according to the Freedom of Religion Act. This organization holds about 8200 members while many Pentecostal parishes still operate as registered associations (see ”Current legal position on religion”).

updated by Tommi Heino

D 25 May 2017    AKimmo Kääriäinen

Judaism

Judaism was brought to Finland in the early 19th century, mainly by merchants and men working for the Imperial Russian army. By 1939 at the beginning of Winter War against Soviet Union, the (...)

Judaism was brought to Finland in the early 19th century, mainly by merchants and men working for the Imperial Russian army. By 1939 at the beginning of Winter War against Soviet Union, the number of Jews had risen to 1,793. In the early years of the 20th century Helsinki, Viipuri and Turku acquired their own synagogues. Today, there are two Jewish parishes in Finland in Helsinki and Turku and the number of Jews was 1,133 in 2015.

updated by Tommi Heino

D 25 May 2017    AKimmo Kääriäinen

Islam

The first Muslims also came to Finland with the Russian army towards the end of the 19th century. The foundations of the traditional community of a thousand or so Muslims were laid by the arrival (...)

The first Muslims also came to Finland with the Russian army towards the end of the 19th century. The foundations of the traditional community of a thousand or so Muslims were laid by the arrival of Tatar merchants from Russia around the end of the 19th century. The Finnish Islamic congregation was registered in 1925. During the past decades an influx of refugees from Muslim countries has increased the Islamic community in Finland, but only a minority (14,000) of the newcomers have registered as members of a congregation. The total number of Muslims is estimated to be around 70,000. Even though the number of Muslims has rapidly increased, it is still relatively low compared to other European countries.

updated by Tommi Heino

D 25 May 2017    AKimmo Kääriäinen

The Roman Catholic Church

After the Reformation, the Catholic Church disappeared from Finland for centuries, finally being officially reinstated in 1929 when it was registered as the Catholic Church in Finland. The (...)

After the Reformation, the Catholic Church disappeared from Finland for centuries, finally being officially reinstated in 1929 when it was registered as the Catholic Church in Finland. The majority of Catholic priests in Finland came from either Poland or the Netherlands. The first Finnish Catholic priest since 16th century was ordained in 1961 and the consecration of the first Finnish bishop in 2009 gained a lot of media attention. The Catholic Church has a membership of around 13,000, the majority of whom live in Helsinki and a few other cities in southern Finland. There are eight parishes and one independent diocese that covers the whole country. Finland has had diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1942.

updated by Tommi Heino

D 25 May 2017    AKimmo Kääriäinen

Jehovah´s Witnesses

Depending on a way one counts, Jehovah´s Witnesses can be said to be the third biggest registered religious organization in Finland. It has been in public eye regularly during the past few (...)

Depending on a way one counts, Jehovah´s Witnesses can be said to be the third biggest registered religious organization in Finland. It has been in public eye regularly during the past few decades, mainly due to its doctrinal emphasis on avoidance of blood, conscientious objection and public preaching. Public opinion on Jehovah´s Witnesses has been more negative than that of other religious organizations. Activities in Finland began in the beginning of 20th century. Nowadays there are about 18,500 Jehovah´s Witnesses in Finland and about 300 parishes.

D 3 July 2017    ATommi Heino

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