The Republic of Finland is draped with lush forests and speckled with thousands of lakes, and cold, subarctic temperatures envelope the Northern European nation located between Sweden and Russia. In the north, the sun remains bright at all hours during the summer, and in the winter it hovers just above the horizon for nearly eight weeks. Finland is one of the most peaceful and affluent European nations and is considered to have one of the best-qualified workforces in the world due to the government’s focus on education, training, and research.
In 1917, Finland gained independence from Russia and became a constitutional republic. It enjoys one of the freest press corps in the world, and private newspapers feature a number of opposing political views without fear of censorship. Finland has an industrialized, free-market economy focused on trade, which is over one third of the GDP. The nation manufactures lumber products, metals, telecommunications, and electronics, specifically excelling in high-tech exports of mobile phones. The 2008 recession hit Finland among the hardest in the euro zone, and a budget surplus turned into a deficit. Fear of the future weighs heavily on the aging population as productivity is decreasing, threatening competitiveness, fiscal sustainability, and economic growth.
Over 80% of people in Finland identify themselves as Christians, and many attend the Lutheran Church of Finland. The church is known for sending out missionaries to all nations, specifically the unevangelized world, and the nation can easily access the former Soviet Republics as a result of its location. While the church has steadily sent out missionaries, though, local church attendance has dramatically declined, and Islam and fringe religions are growing. Meanwhile, churches are adopting a secularized view of the Gospel. Only 8% of Finns claim to attend any kind of religious service every month, and only 3% go weekly. Many Free churches, while not growing, are at least maintaining their numbers.
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