Ladies and gentlemen!
Bishop of Helsinki Aimo T. Nikolainen asked one of the children in a Sunday school class who was the first person of the world. A little boy answered in a clear voice:”Kekkonen!” The bishop corrected: “No, the first person was Adam.” To this the boy retorted: “Well, yes, if you count the foreigners.” It was a time when the name Kekkonen was a synonym of the word ‘president’.
Around that time I voted for the first time as an 18-year old in the presidential elections. I voted for the candidate of my current party, Raino Westerholm, because he had the courage to speak out about the human rights violations of our eastern neighbour, and at the same time about the freedom of speech and religion of our own country. The Christian League offered an alternative that did not seem stale political game and calculation, but genuine fiery ideology. The challenge of the Christian Democratic Party still remains to boldly defend important values even when the power elite want us to hush up.
Dear Christian Democrats!
Each one of us has a story of why we have joined the party, why we have supported and voted for it, why we work hard for the sake of this our political home. These are the stories that together make up the history of our party. You, my dear friends, are people, who value lasting values, the Christian Democratic ideals more than Gallup polls or high political offices or personal benefits. Today, with great respect and gratitude I think of those veterans of our party who have carried the torch through victories and defeats. On this occasion we enjoy of the presence of the honorary chairmen of our party. You have cleared the path that we now can walk with ease!
Human rights activist Martin Luther King who was murdered 40 years ago repeated in his legendary speech: “I have a dream!” His dream of equal sisterhood and brotherhood of the blacks and the whites changed the world more and faster than he probably even could dream. Today we are celebrating one dream coming true. The dream of a handful of people in a living room in Helsinki has grown into a significant force, a parliamentary party standing on its own two feet. Although in the past we have been forced to electoral pacts under an unfair election law, in the last parliamentary elections we gained all seven seats with our own ballots.
Christian values have influenced the surrounding society from the very beginning. In Rome I had a chance to see the catacombs where the persecuted church held its meetings and buried its dead. Along the dark corridors there were thousands of graves carved into the rock in several layers. I paid attention to the large number of very small graves in which only newborn babies could fit. The Romans' style of family planning was to abandon newborn babies, which was especially the fate of female and disabled children. The early Christian Democrats gathered all the children, both living and the dead. They did not leave the dead babies’ bodies laying in the streets and river banks to be eaten by animals. The persecuted minority had the courage to realize their values. Western child protection work has its foundation in this Christian view of man, and European civilization, culture, legislation and the view on human rights are built on this foundation.
In Finland and in Europe, we are living a stage in history where the influence of the Christian culture on society is again getting weaker, we see it if we think of protection of human life or family legislation. The Christian Democratic parties rose from this transition of values.
The founders of the party were particularly concerned about the future of Christian up-bringing of children and youth. These challenges are astronomically greater today than they were 50 years ago. Our youth do not live in a value void but rather in a jungle of mutually conflicting values. The postmodern society does no recognize universal ethics. A young person has to define his own morals and shop here and there for ingredients to build his worldview.
The values expressed by the media, parents and the school can easily be called hypocritical – they say one thing but do another. Violence is objectionable but the media is full of violent entertainment. Young people are told that “life is the best drug”. Still, in the adult world celebrating is self-evidently associated with getting drunk. Human value is the basis of all declarations, but in reality life is destroyed, there is deception, abandoning and infidelity.
In spite of the cruel reality, the dream of a family, of love and a harmonious life is strong. These dreams show a glimpse of paradise. In a national survey of values and attitudes conducted by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, 83% of Finns considered family life and its relationships, especially the sentiment of being loved as a very important contributing factor to happiness. Only 4% of Finns consider equally important the goals we usually talk about in politics: high standard of living, wealth and good income.
The Christian Democrats are bold enough to lift up the family and the defence of marriage as a political goal. We want to fulfil the place we have as a leading initiative-taking family party in Finland. For us, family policy is not only a campaign theme; it is a deeply ideological starting point for policy. The wellbeing and future of our nation is built in families. The right to a conjugal relationship needs to be ensured also the elderly – in senior citizens’ services the married couples are too often separated and placed in different care units in long-term care. Spouses who have promised to live together till death do them part have to live in separation by municipal decision.
Christian Democracy offers a third way between the socialist government-centeredness and the market-liberalistic individualism. Right to ownership, entrepreneurship and honest work are the basis of a healthy economy, but the weak and defenceless need to be cared for. Christian Democracy combines respect for human value with communal responsibility and caring. Individual rights are not used to destroy life and the community.
Everywhere and in all stages of history man’s central need has been to be loved. The state can not love people, but the society can build the circumstances in which the citizens' society, near-by communities and especially families have the space, the time and conditions to love and to be caring. That is why throughout their history, the Christian Democrats have battled for the wellbeing of families and homes as well as family caring. Home care subsidy was established on our initiative and we want to further develop and strengthen it. Dear friends! We are celebrating 50 years of history of our party, but we do not yearn for the past but look into the future. The Christian Democrats want to be a party of the future with a focus. The Finnish society is facing great challenges: population is getting older, economy is ever more global and at the same time we experience rapid changes in values that corrode the wellbeing of families and especially children. The party has to live in the present and be able to answer the challenges of the future. Much has changed in 50 years. Finland is no longer a haven of homogeneous culture, and this gives us an impetus to be more firmly integrated into the international Christian Democratic movement. Christian Democracy is basically not a nationalistic movement, but a global ideology, although at the same time we emphasize that decisions should be made as close to the people as possible. This is why the Christian Democrats are to have a positive attitude towards international cooperation, whether it is development aid, crisis control, preventing climate change or securing humans rights. The basic command for all global networking – go to all the world – applies also here. Last autumn in Brussels, I met representatives of the Belorussian Christian Democrats in a meeting of citizens’ organisations and some Christian Democratic parties. The chairman of the party could not come to the meeting, because he was in prison like many opposition politicians. It is a disgrace that in Europe – less than 500 km from Finland – human rights, freedom of speech and religion can so glaringly be violated. Our party wants to express its strongest support to its sister party in Belorussia. Our responsibility for protecting the environment and preventing climate change has become the number one theme in politics. Christian values emphasize our responsibility as stewards of creation and the virtue of moderation. We can not steal from the coming generations their rights to nature and wellbeing that belongs to them. That is why we also need to develop as a green value party. On this year of our anniversary, I encourage us all to make an effort to cut a higher profile in local politics. People’s wellbeing and everyday life is not improved only in the parliament, but particularly locally, in the municipalities, near the people. A strong role in local politics suits our party well, since one of the central pillars of Christian Democratic ideology is subsidiarity – making decisions near the people.
I am grateful to those brave Finns who in their day started channelling the fire of their Christian Democratic ideology into a political party. The founders of the party saw that in the old parties, the Christian values often remained decorations in their ceremonial speeches.
The foundation of society is the values it is built on. Often it is hard times that show how durable is the foundation on which our community is built. Reaching for quick economic rewards at the expense of humanity ends up costing us all a great deal. Sweeping aside the human value of those who are defenceless demoralizes the entire community. Indifference towards those who are poor results in insecurity even among those who are wealthy. Undervaluing the human rights of those who are weak, results in a loveless society. The corrosion of the foundations of the family threatens to collapse the entire future of society. In the face of these challenges, we want to be the ones who bring hope and build the future. We do not want to only repair damages but prevent them altogether. We want to build on rock, not sand.
Our party has a bright future; we have good possibilities to widen our support base and our impact on society. Our slogan “Human value is greater than market value” answers well to the Finns’ growing longing for spiritual and softer values. Our common dream is to build a community, in which everyone’s human value is respected, the weak are cared for, nature is preserved and work and entrepreneurship is valued. Christian Democracy is not needed as the brakes in the train of progress, but rather it is the headlights, and the one questioning the seemingly inevitable route. Our mission is to build a society with a conscience.