Asylum Seekers, the Church and Finnish Society: Understanding the Situation Through Hannah Arendt’s Concept of “The Right to Have Rights”

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In 2015, 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in Finland. Since then, Finnish government has tightened up the legislation of international protection. In addition,Finnish Migration Service has changed its own practices, which has made even family reunions, among others, more difficult. Especially since 2015, several parishesof the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland have started to work with asylumseekers, and some of them have offered church sanctuary. Through ethnographyand reading of Hannah Arendt, the article provides a deepened understanding ofthe situation of asylum seekers in Finland and the work that the Lutheran Churchdoes with asylum seekers. The article shows how Arendt’s phrase “the right tohave rights” and her “theory of action” can provide a tool for understanding thesituation of asylum seekers in Finland. Arendt's discourse can provide a way ofunderstanding the (potential) role of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finlandin promoting the human rights of asylum seekers in Finnish society. The articleshows that sanctuary offered by the church can be understood as a way of providing the asylum seekers with a way to enter an alternative “space of appearance”where their voice can be heard. This is due to the role of the Lutheran Church asan established institution in Finnish society.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)185–205
Issue number91/92
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
  • Asylum
  • Finland
  • human rights

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