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Female Pastors often Harassed by Parishioners

Over half of the female pastors in the capital region say they have been recipients of offensive sexual advances, according to a survey by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church’s news website, Pod.fi.

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About one-fifth of the female pastors in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa responded to the survey in November.

The most common type of harassment was inappropriate conversations. However, some congregates have shown up unwanted at a female pastor's home, according to Marina Tolonen, the industrial safety officer of Parish Union of Helsinki.

She says this type of harassment is particularly distressing because pastors cannot fire their parishioners.

”You can’t really ban them from coming to church events. Of course, security can be amplified in situations. For instance, guards in civilian clothes could be there ready to help if need be,” Tolonen told YLE.

The Church Council says it is aware of the problem. Other church workers as well have experienced harassment, says Pekka Huokuna, a council member.

”Church employees work in very different types of situations. Quite often they are working with people who have all kinds of problems,” he says.

Huokuna says workers should confide in others about their experiences. He adds that older workers may have had similar experiences and could offer help.

Setting limits

Pastor Eeva-Liisa Hurmerinta of the Kallio Parish in Helsinki has worked as a pastor for 20 years. She says she’s been harassed just a few times.

She adds that if a parishioner wants to talk about sex, pastors must set up boundaries.

”I could imagine that a young pastor in a new area would be embarrassed by these types of parishioners. With experience, one learns how to handle these types of situations and how to direct the conversation,” she says.



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