Rev. Dr Tapio Luoma is the archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
You are becoming a Thursdays in Black ambassador in the midst of reports that cases of domestic abuse and violence are rising given the rules in many countries to stay at home to “stay safe” from COVID-19. How can churches and individuals effectively respond to to the continuing urgency of sexual and gender-based violence?
Dr Luoma: Violence against women is a violation of human rights. Churches are called to stand up for the abused and defenseless. Churches can do this by raising awareness. They can do this by calling for the authorities to address the problem through legislation, protection and support; by ensuring that their own teaching and practices duly contribute to advancing women’s rights; by providing women and girls with organized support and means of empowerment. They can and indeed they must do all these things because God is a God of justice.
Where do you see hope that change can happen?
Dr Luoma: The Christian tradition comes with a lasting duty to stand up for the oppressed. In the Gospel, Jesus proclaims that God’s rule will set the oppressed free. Each generation must therefore recognize where people’s rights are being violated and involve themselves in advocacy on their behalf. I am encouraged that many churches are taking on such a role, that they are taking seriously the gravity of violations women still suffer in our societies and that they are actively looking for ways to address the problem. To give one example, my own Finnish Lutheran Church is the leading provider of family counseling services in Finland. This is an important opportunity to employ various means to prevent domestic abuse. It also gives the churches expertise and therefore authority to speak up and raise awareness in society.
What message do you hope to convey as an ambassador for Thursdays in Black?
Dr Luoma: As an ambassador for Thursdays in Black, I wish to extend my greetings to all my fellow Christians. Work against sexual and gender-based violence is part of our common call. As a calling rooted in God’s will, it will not return to us empty but it will accomplish God’s purpose and succeed in its task.