Police investigate suspected child sexual abuse at Adventist Church boarding school
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has launched an investigation into allegations of extensive sexual abuse of children at a school run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
According to preliminary reports, at least ten children – mainly boys under the age of 16 – may have been molested over a period of two decades at Toivonlinna, an Adventist boarding school in Piikkiö in the Southwest of Finland. There are also suspicions of abuse during school camps.
The main suspect resigned last year, but police say that a number of other people have also been implicated.
Many of the alleged victims are already adults. NBI investigator Harri Rahikka has appealed to other possible victims to come forward.
Reports of child abuse within the Seventh Day Adventist Church were the topic of the investigative news programme MOT on YLE TV-1 on Monday evening. According to the programme “a pastor who was part of the top leadership of the church suddenly resigned last autumn. No specific reason was given for the resignation, but there are suspicions among the members of the church that sexual abuse of children was the reason for the move”.
The programme also claimed the church did not report the allegations to the police or child welfare authorities. Also, the administration of the Adventist Church received a letter last autumn in which 16 church members demanded action against two pastors for inappropriate behaviour with children and young people.
The letter alleged that the silence of the church leaders was leading to disaster, warning that “the Adventist Church could experience what the Catholic Church and the Missionary Society have experienced”.
The signatories felt that failure to confront the problem has meant that “wrongdoers have been protected, while the victims have been condemned to silent suffering. Parents have also not been able to protect their children against abuse.”
A spokesman of the Adventist Church was not available for comment on Monday.
In a statement sent to the Finnish News Agency STT the Adventist Church said that it was sorry if young people have had to undergo disturbing experiences.
“We are sad if one or more of our workers have not behaved according to the principles of our church. We apologise to everyone involved”, the statement said.
STT also reports that the International Adventist Church published a statement six years ago on sexual abuse of children, and the Finnish Adventist Church adopted a programme to promote child and youth welfare, including instructions on dealing with suspicions of abuse. The community also has a committee for the welfare of children and young people.