NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Organising Immigrant Religions in a Liberal Welfare State: The Case of Finland

Tuomas Martikainen, Åbo Akademi University

Finland turned into an immigrant receiving society at the turn of the 1990s. The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the joining of the European Union and globalizing economy changed the country’s immigration profile in an unexpected manner. Finnish returnees from the former Soviet Union, refugees and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa, as well as growing marriage, family and work migration from around the world, have produced a new religious diversity that finds its place both in traditional as well as new religious organizations. The country’s immigrant population has grown rapidly and new forms of ethnic and religious diversity are flourishing, especially in larger urban settlements.
The paper examines the processes of religious organization of new first-generation Christian and Muslim minorities to Finland – a late modern, post-industrial, liberal, Nordic welfare state. Globalisation from below has challenged the administrative system, which has rapidly adapted new models of action based on a national tradition of associational governance as well as various European Union-initiated programs of immigrant incorporation. In the spirit of New Public Governance, religious organizations are emerging not only as ethnic havens for the newcomers or sites of cultural adaptation, but also as administrative partners with local and central government officials.
The paper is based on ethnographic case studies among immigrant religious organizations in Finland. It discusses immigrant settlement, integration, organization, pluralism, governance and symbolic visibility among Christian and Muslim organizations. It reveals the strong role played by the Nordic welfare state and its multiculturalist policies not only in accommodating, but also in actively supporting the institutionalization of new religious and cultural diversity in 21st century Europe.