FINLAND – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is urging prayer for Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola and Dr. Päivi Räsänen as their trial in Finland begins today, January 24, in what has been widely criticized as an infringement on religious freedom. Dr. Pohjola is Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland and Dr. Räsänen is a Finnish Member of Parliament.

The two face charges over the 2004 publication of a booklet authored by Dr. Räsänen which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality. Bishop Pohjola has been charged as the publisher of the work. Despite an earlier investigation by Helsinki Police which concluded there was nothing illegal about the text, Finland’s Prosecutor General decided to charge the pair with “incitement against a group of people.” In addition, Dr. Räsänen faces several additional charges, including for quoting Scripture in a tweet which criticized her church body for participating in Helsinki Pride.

In 2021, the ILC published a letter signed by the bishops and presidents of dozens of Lutheran church bodies around the world protesting the decision to charge the pair for expressing biblical views on human sexuality. The ILC also sponsored an American tour on religious freedom in which Bishop Pohjola explains the situation taking place in Finland more clearly.

Please keep Dr. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola in prayer throughout the trial:

Lord God, heavenly Father, You sent Your only begotten Son to stand before Pilate to bear witness to the truth; He sent out His twelve with the promise that they will stand before governors and kings for Your sake, and bear witness before them, for the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon Finnish Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola and Dr. Päivi Räsänen, that they might continue to proclaim Your Word with courage and clarity as they stand before the Finnish civil court; that Your divine law might convict those who persecute them and that Your Holy Gospel and Spirit would turn their hearts to repentance and true faith; through Jesus Christ, You Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.