The Finnish suvivirsi, or Summer Hymn, may be forbidden at schools for having religious overtones, according to YLE in English. Such plans, which are under review by the national board of education, have raised stiff opposition from Finland’s most conservative and nationalistic politicians like Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen and anti-immigration Perussuomlaiset (PS) chairman, Timo Soini.
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Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen called on the Board of Education to see if the suvivirsi runs counter to religious freedom, equality and neutrality at Finnish schools.
In order to understand this debate, we’d have to look at it from Räsänen’s and Soini’s perspective.
Räsänen, who is a member of the Christian Democratic party and who considers homosexuality to be a sin, said that the board of education and schools should not under any circumstances forbid the suvivirsi. “…the best practices and traditions inherent in Finnish culture are weighed again in very conflictive interpretations,” she wrote on her Uusi Suomi blog.
Soini, who is a staunch Catholic that opposes abortion and gay marriage, is naturally against forbidding the singing of the suvivirsi at schools. “It a part of Finland’s spiritual landscape and cultural traditions,” he was quoted as saying on Ilta-Sanomat. “This is totally incomprehensible.”
Räsänen and Soini represent, in my opinion, a Finland that still believes that our society must not change even if our society becomes ever-culturally and ethnically diverse.
The fact that our society is more diverse today puts under scrutiny some of our traditions like the suvivirsi.
Instead of attacking minorities and migrants in this country for putting the suvivirsi under the spotlight, we should ask why schools should be secular institutions and the role of religious freedom in our society, which is not under question.