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Géographie religieuse

Finland has been characterised by a strong folk church, where the proportion of people belonging to church is large in all parts of the country. However, geographical differences have gradually emerged : in some parts of Finland, the Lutheran church still has a rather strong position, while in other parts only half of the residents belong to the church (see Figure 1). There is a strong presence of revival movements in certain areas, most of them part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. In general, members of the revival movements are active church members, and it has been noted that the influence of the revival movements and engagement in the church seem related.

Revival movements include Laestadian Movement (lestadiolaisuus), the Finnish Evangelical Movement (evankelisuus), the Awakening Movement (herännäisyys), the Prayer Movement (rukoilevaisuus) and the Fifth Revival Movement (viides herätysliike). Revival movements were born among folk revivals in rural Finland mainly in the 19th century. Only the Fifth Revival Movement started in the 20th century and has spread specifically in the cities. The older movements have been influenced by continental Pietism, while the newer ones by the international evangelical Christianity.

Geographically, Conservative Laestadians (vanhoillislestadiolaiset) operate in the largest area. Ostrobothnia in Western Finland is a region where revival movements have a particularly strong presence, and it has sometimes been referred to as the “Bible Belt” of Finland. The strong influence of revival movements extends further from the coastal region of Ostrobothnia to the regions of Kainuu and Savo, all the way to the eastern border. It is mostly the dioceses of Lapua, Oulu and Kuopio that have been influenced by the revival movements. This is reflected in the frequency of activities that different movements organise in the parish areas.

The influence of revival movements can further be evaluated by examining localities where the proportion of church members is considerably high, or where it is lower than the average. Nine in ten localities of high church membership have monthly activities of at least one but typically more revival movements every month, whereas more than one in four localities where the church membership is on the average level at most do not have any monthly activities of revival movements. However, the percentage of people belonging to church in different areas is also related to the degree of urbanisation. Belonging to church is lowest in Helsinki and in the other big cities.

Figure 1. Belonging to church regionally by parishes or parish unions (% of the population) (Church Statistics, 2020).

Figure 2. Regional distribution of some revival movements from 1999 to 2011. Monthly activities in % of the parishes.

 Community, Participation and Faith. Contemporary Challenges in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (2013) Publication 62. Based on the Church’s four-year report. Tampere : Church Research Institute.
 Hytönen, Maarit & Ketola, Kimmo & Salminen, Veli-Matti & Salomäki, Hanna (eds.) (2014) Leikkauspintoja kirkon jäsenyyteen. Tampere : Church Research Institute.

D 1er septembre 2021    AAnita Sipilä

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