Arson Suspected as Finland Church Burns Down During Christmas Service

church fire finland
Getty Images / Wikimedia MKFI / Composite

A church in the Finnish region of South Karelia caught fire in the middle of a Christmas service on Sunday, with local police believing the incident was a deliberate act of arson.

The wooden church, located in the municipality of Rautjärvi, caught fire on Christmas morning and was evacuated during the morning Christmas service after smoke alarms detected and alerted worshippers at around 9:30 am. While all of those present at the church were able to safely evacuate the building, the church itself was engulfed in flames and was completely destroyed.

The South-East Finland Police Department arrived on the scene of the fire and stated that they believed the fire was likely deliberately set and are investigating the incident as an arson attack, Finnish broadcaster Yle reports.

Chaplain Timo Kälviäinen, who was conducting the Christmas service, stated, “I had time to realize that the fire alarm was ringing, and it didn’t take long after that.” Kälviäinen stated that the 30 to 40 parishioners exited through the side doors as the fire was set at the main doors of the church.

Firefighters stand at the scene as flames destroy a centuries-old wooden church from 1881 in a fire on early Christmas Day in the municipality of Rautjärvi, Finland on December 25, 2022. – The fire broke out during a Christmas service at the Rautjärvi church in the morning of December 25. Between 30 and 40 people reportedly attended the service, but according to rescue services everyone was safely evacuated. Authorities say they have reason to suspect that the blaze that ravaged the Rautjärvi church was intentionally started, and so the crime is being investigated as a case of aggravated property damage. – Finland OUT (Photo by Ari Nakari / LEHTIKUVA / AFP) / Finland OUT (Photo by ARI NAKARI/LEHTIKUVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Another witness to the fire, Linda Wilen-Veijalainen, who lives next door to the building, described the scene saying, “From our farm, we could see when the church tower collapsed. I don’t think there will be much left of that.”

Police have also stated that they are investigating whether or not the fire may be linked to another recent suspected arson at a home around 20 miles from the church that took place just hours after the church fire. A body was also found at the scene of the burned home.

The church fire could be just the latest anti-Christian attack to take place over the Christmas season in Europe and comes after churches were attacked in Bordeaux and Paris in recent days.

Other symbols of Christmas, were also attacked in France, including a Christmas tree that was cut down by a man yelling Allahu Akbar and a nativity scene set on fire in a suburb of Strasbourg.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)



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