Head of Estonian Lutheran church launches petition to make religious education compulsory

  • 2023-12-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – In his Advent reflection in St. Mary's Cathedral in Tallinn on Thursday, Archbishop Urmas Viilma, the head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, spoke about peace and the devastating effect of war and announced the initiation of a petition to make religious education a compulsory subject in schools.

Viilma reflected on the deeper meaning of the anticipation of Christmas, stressing that peace and joy can only come if all people are ready to act for reconciliation and peace. The church leader also spoke about what is happening in the world, referring to the conflicts in Ukraine and the Holy Land, and emphasized the devastating impact of wars on the environment and the human soul.

The archbishop stressed the importance of Christian education in Estonia and announced the launch of a petition to include non-denominational religious education among the compulsory subjects in schools. A referendum a century ago, in 1923, brought religious education, which had been dropped from the school curriculum a few years earlier, back into Estonian schools as a compulsory subject. This, according to the archbishop, is also true for today, as in a situation where people's natural religiosity has not disappeared, it is irresponsible to deprive each new generation of knowledge about religion and relevant education as a result of the national education policy.

Reflecting on what is happening in Estonian politics, the church leader expressed his concern that those elected as the leaders of the nation often behave in a machine-like manner, where it is not possible to feel human warmth, sincerity or understanding behind artificial politeness and algorithms.

"The fact that you cannot drive out Pelzebul with Pelzebul is already written in the Bible. Obstruction cannot be defeated by obstruction. Mutual obstruction by those on the front line of democracy ultimately means the suicide of democracy," the archbishop said.

Calling for help to our neighbor in both peace and restlessness, Viilma also talked about the activities and statistics of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. On average, 685,000-700,000 people participate in various events taking place in the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church every year. A total of 5,300 people are involved with the Estonian Lutheran Church on a daily basis, either through employment or voluntary work.

"This figure is comparable to that for the University of Tartu, which is officially considered the largest employer in Estonia with 5,154 people in employment last year," the archbishop said. Based on the data of Statistics Estonia, almost half of the 3,288 concerts held in Estonia in 2022 were slated to take place in Lutheran churches. The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and Eesti Kontsert are entities of comparable size and scope of activity as concert agencies, he added.