About the project
Taakasta voimavaraksi (“From burden to resource”) is a project aimed to improve the wellbeing of LGBTIQ-people in religious communities and to support LGBTIQ-people with a religious background. The project is financed by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health for three years (2018 – 2020).
For many of us, sexual orientation, gender identity and spirituality are all hugely important in our lives. Many have experienced difficulties in reconciling these intertwined areas of life. In some religious communities people have experienced and some still experience their sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a burden. Similarly, some people experience their spirituality/religiosity as a burden within LGBTIQ communities. Some have experienced pressures and become convinced that they have to choose. That they need to deny, ignore or change their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity in order to be “a true believer”. Or that they need to distance themselves from anything that has to do with spirituality or religion, because they have felt so strongly that they and/or their loved ones are not being affirmed within their religious community. Many have tried to do both in the course of their lives.
To deny or renounce a part of yourself that feels important may seem like a noble sacrifice, but it can have dire consequences. It is a heavy burden to bear and for many it may prove unbearable. However, some remain convinced that they need to bear it in order to not be a burden for others. We try to support individuals and communities to find respectful ways to talk about issues concerning sexual orientation, gender identity and faith. We think that these talks need to involve exploring how the burden of addressing such challenging questions and living with the implications of how these questions are dealt with could shift from being placed so exclusively onto the shoulders of members of sexual and gender minorities. We have found that for many communities and individuals this has involved a process whereby something that was previously experienced as burdensome has gradually come to appear more and more as gifts and empowering resources.
Many religious communities are struggling with finding respectful ways to address issues concerning the inclusion and wellbeing of LGBTIQ members of their community. We strive to understand what is needed for the practices and the atmosphere within religious communities to become safer for and affirming towards members of sexual and gender minorities. We aim to increase understanding and knowledge about sexual and gender diversity among employees and volunteers in religious communities. We try to bring together individuals, groups and institutions in the hopes that together we can bring about positive change.
Peer group support is central for the project. We aim to ensure that ever more members of sexual and gender minorities have access to empowering peer group support that also recognizes some people’s need to discuss religious issues, be they about faith or about familial ties complicated by religious belonging. We will be helping to get new peer-groups going in various parts of Finland while also supporting the already existing network of peer groups. We welcome suggestions concerning our engagement and try to adjust it in response to feedback. Furthermore, we offer mediation in conflict situations that emerge in religious communities and in LGBTIQ-communities.
We endeavor to increase awareness within LGBTIQ organizations regarding how they could recognize and deal with the specific needs and vulnerabilities of members who also belong to a religious community or have a religious background.
Despite its biblical name and aims to increase spiritual wellbeing, Malkus is a non-confessional association and is not bound to any particular religious, spiritual or philosophical tradition. Members can adhere to various traditions and are welcome to participate in the activities of the association out of their own spiritual or philosophical convictions.
Peik Ingman is a scholar of comparative religion and a professional mediator who is familiar with contemporary issues relevant to sexual and gender minorities in Finland. As a professional mediator he has experience of facilitating conflict situations by fostering cooperation and dialogue. His academic background provides him with a broad familiarity with religious and philosophical worldviews/perspectives. He is trilingual: fluent in English, Swedish and Finnish. Peik works particularly with staff and volunteers in religious communities (e.g. congregations). He endeavors to support communities on the community’s own terms to find ways to respectfully include members of sexual and gender minorities and to manage tensions within their community. He believes that much can be achieved and set in motion by making an appointment and sitting down to talk.
Lumi Sammallahti is a religious studies scholar. She has done research on gender systems in non-western contexts and is familiar with basic (and not-so-basic) issues concerning the relationships between gender, sexuality and religion. The past few years she has been studying social work and worked as a supervisor at a refugee center. Lumi takes care of most of our media communication and coordinates peer support, including our chat groups.