Remembering Challenges of Migrants in Finland
The mercy of God and a new life in Jesus Christ are evidenced by people who are healed through a repentance of sins and prayer. The World Day of Prayer reminds us of this. What do women today need? We need peace and a private moment with God. We need to experience justice, companionship and security to be fully human. In addition, we need to preserve our dignity and feel involved in God's creation despite the constraints we encounter in life. On the World Day of Prayer, we pray for prayer. One's spiritual life opens with a prayer—along with empathy, gratitude and readiness for change. In prayer we show that we are willing to take action for a better and safer world. God encourages us to do this through various Psalms in the Bible.
We need courage to voice and stand for the truth about the situations we actually live in. Some believe that Finland is very advanced in matters of women's equality, but in reality, women face big challenges. There are more women in the labor market overall, yet Finnish women also have the primary responsibility for children in the family. They receive lower wages than men for equivalent work, and they are often employed for short-term jobs.
Sadly, Finnish society is not impartial when it comes to immigrant women. While Finnish women continue to face challenges, the situation is more difficult for migrant women in Finland. Immigrants come to Finland from around the world, but the biggest groups are from Russia and Estonia. There are also many immigrants from Africa. I myself am an immigrant to Finland. My home country is Estonia, and I work with immigrants from Estonia.
The integration of migrant women is extremely difficult, especially when their cultures, beliefs and views differ from those in Finland. Many migrant women follow their families to Finland, arriving with little formal education. Because they lack language skills and social networks, they end up doing domestic work in order to provide for their families. This puts them in especially vulnerable situations. Migrant women often carry the main responsibility for raising their children in the home so some become isolated and confined to the house, excluded from society.
Finland has strong social-welfare programs that support everything from child care, health care, libraries, and shelters for battered women. What the church or nonprofit social service agencies often provide in other countries is provided here by the state. Finnish citizens and residents hold an identity card that enables them to access all of these social services. Without this card, undocumented immigrant women in Finland are excluded from needed social services, and few alternatives are available to them. This means that they lack access to the health system, housing and shelters when facing domestic violence.
We must make great strides in order to begin fulfilling the core ideas of equality, and even greater strides to improve the status of immigrant women. I ask that we join hands in prayer for those great strides toward equality that must be made. We pray for our decision makers to act with wisdom and tolerance. We also pray for immigrant women and ask for courage to voice their stories and expectations to society. There is power in prayer, and Jesus Christ has promised to be with us until the end of time.
Dear God, we praise you for the life you have given, and for everything you have let us experience. Make us strong and give us understanding for what is happening in our world. Teach us to battle for good things, so that your voice can be heard through ours. Help us listen to your advice and become deliverers of your work. As every person is your creation, so assist us to carry out our duties in a way that allows everyone to find a place in this world. Thank you for the promise that you bless our duties and protect us with your love. Amen.
Tuuli Raamat is an Estonian-born woman deacon who serves Estonians in Helsinki, Finland, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. She is an active member of the YWCA and president of the Finnish YWCA.