Around 30 members of the Chechen diaspora in Finland held a peaceful demonstration outside the Lutheran church in the town of Raasepori on 31 October 2010. The demonstrators wanted to turn the attention of the parishioners to the threats and malicious statements of pastor Juha Molari against Chechen refugees in Finland. The demonstrators handed out leaflets informing the parishioners about Molari’s documented statements and carried placards saying, “We are not terrorists”, “Why does this pastor persecute us?”, and “Molari’s hate group persecutes refugees”.Pastor Molari claims the demonstration was illegal, apparently because he had not given his permission for the people he has threatened to protest against his actions. In fact, the organisers of the demonstration had given formal notice to police about the event well in advance. The police did arrive at the scene, stayed for about five minutes, and left without asking any questions; clearly, the police saw that the demonstrators did not pose any danger to public safety, nor did the demonstrators disturb anyone. The demonstration was captured by a film crew for a documentary to be shown later on Finnish television. Earlier, the Chechen and Ingush diaspora in Finland sent an open letter to the Finnish Ombudsman for Minorities, calling for protection against Molari’s threats. The pastor wrote in his blog that there were no genuine refugees from the Caucasus in Finland. “Everyone who has fled the Caucasus and arrived in Finland is linked to terrorism,” Molari alleged. Also, he wrote that asylum applicants were “brought into Finland because of their terrorist links.” Chechens and Ingushetians living in Finland regard Molari’s allegations as incitement to racial hatred. Pastor Molari is a member of the “Finnish Anti-Fascist Committe,” which is a hate group that has directed vitriolic attacks against those who have fled Russia for fear of their safety and against those who have dared to criticise the policies of the Russian government. The group’s claim that Chechen and Ingush refugees residing in Finland would be linked to terrorism has endangered the safety of the refugees’ relatives in their homeland. Moreover, the group’s long campaign of lies and doublespeak has tarnished the image of Finland and the Finnish people in Russia. The many discussions that the demonstrators had with the parishioners in Pohja showed that the parishioners had no or very little knowledge about their pastor’s doings outside of the congregation. One local resident said the people did not know about Molari’s hate campaigns because the local papers did not write about the issue. The demonstrators specifically wished to inform the parishioners about Molari’s actions, in the hope that the parishioners would comtemplate whether it was appropriate for their pastor to engage in hate speech and fear-mongering. One employee of the Lutheran congregation in Pohja lamented the situation that had arisen and said she was taking distance from pastor Molari’s actions. Another church employee said the demonstration did not disturb or frighten her the least bit. One local resident expressed her wish that Molari would resign from his post as pastor of the congregation and recalled that the pastor’s superior, bishop Mikko Heikka, had indeed asked Molari to resign. A member of the Swedish-speaking congregation in Pohja said he was quite at odds with Molari and expressed his indignation at how the pastor mixed his politics with his work as head of the congregation. Indeed, Molari does not shy away from combining his role as Lutheran pastor and Putinist hatemonger: while wearing his priestly garb, he took on himself to speak in the capacity of secretary of the “Finnish-Caucasian Society,” which besides Molari includes as its members Johan Bäckman, leader of the “Anti-Fascist Committee,” and Risto “Abdullah” Tammi, another errant fanatic. Molari used the occasion of the demonstration to spew the same filth and lies that he publishes in his blog almost daily. He called the demonstrators — many of whom were children — “Satanists.” Mikael Storsjö, Secretary of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum and well-known Chechnya activist, asked the parishioners for understanding, saying that the demonstrators wanted to convey to the parishioners their concern about Molari’s actions. Storsjö stressed that the demonstration was in no way directed against the Lutheran church or the members or employees of the congregation. “The parishioners are not responsible for the pastor’s shenanigans and bigotry,” he noted. Storsjö criticised the passivity of church authorities in investigating the many complaints made against Molari. The church has turned over the investigation of the complaints to the police.
The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.
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