Religious group admits child abuse blunders

Leaders of a religious movement in Finland have admitted that cases of child abuse within its ranks have not been handled properly. An internal study into the Central Committee of Conservative Laestadian Congregations (SRK) – a revival group within the Evangelical Lutheran Church – has identified between 70 and 100 members as child abusers in the last 30 years.

At a press conference last Thursday, SRK leaders conceded that they did not always act on allegations of abuse within the movement. Most of the cases are believed to have taken place within families, with some of the crimes happening so long ago that they can now no longer be prosecuted.

The probe concluded that matters were not investigated early enough by SRK administrators and that the guidance given to those involved in child abuse cases was often contradictory or wrong. “There are situations in which forgiveness has been misunderstood, and where people have not been guided to take responsibility before the law,” said SRK Secretary-General Tuomas Hanninen at the press conference.

The SRK also expressed regret that previous statements were deemed to be protecting the perpetrators while downplaying the status of the victims. “We have not had a sufficient overall picture in the matter,” said SRK deputy chairman Matti Taskila in a Helsingin Sanomat report.

The internal inquiry was launched at the end of last year after allegations of extensive child abuse began to emerge from the Lutheran Church and its revival movements. Of the cases which were reported, around 30 have been put through court or have legal proceedings pending.

Between 10 and 15 of the alleged abuses are preachers, all of which have now lost their positions, according to Conservative Laestadian administrators. The management of the movement has, however, not been changed.

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