World News

Finnish church group reports child abuse over 30 yrs

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A Finnish religious group said on Thursday some of its lay preachers and members had sexually abused children in as many as 100 cases over 30 years.

The Central Committee of Conservative Laestadian Congregations (SRK) told Reuters it had uncovered the abuse after investigating allegations about the treatment of children by people in the Christian community.

“(Our) report confirmed that there have been serious incest and paedophilia cases within the movement,” SRK Chairman Olavi Voittonen told Reuters.

“According to the research, there have been between 70 and 100 incidents, and 10 to 15 lay preachers have been found to be involved. They have been relieved of their duty.”

The organisation, with up to 120,000 members, is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

It is known for shunning alcohol and television, and for having large families since it does not believe in contraception.

Voittonen said most of the cases had taken place within families and none of the cases had taken place during movement’s official activities.

“Unfortunately, the individual victims have been given insufficient care,” Voittonen said, adding SRK has taken action to prevent abuse in the future.

About 30 of the cases have been brought to court since 2000.

Editing by Ritsuko Ando and Andrew Heavens