Danish bishops protest against abolition of Great Prayer Day to fund NATO
It is a "significant intervention in the tradition of the national church" to want to abolish Great Prayer Day in Denmark. This is the opinion of the country's 11 bishops , who have sent a joint statement to the Minister of the Church, Louise Schack-Elholm.
Published: February 6, 2023, 8:13 am
The government wants to abolish a public holiday in Denmark to finance new resources for NATO participation. The Great Prayer Day, is a Christian holiday that has been observed since 1686 and falls on the fourth Friday after Easter.
“The bishops find public holidays essential for both Christian preaching and the cohesion of our society. […] The bishops therefore find it regrettable that the government wants to abolish a public holiday. Furthermore, the link between the abolition of a public holiday and increased defense budgets is puzzling,” the statement noted.
The Danish government intends to meet the NATO defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP by 2030.
“On the other hand, it is up to the Folketing and the social partners to decide which days off should apply in Denmark. We naturally hope that the provision on the folk church in the Constitution (§4) will continue to cause the state to respect that the folk church’s holidays are associated with days off,” the statement continued.
The biggest protest in a decade
On Sunday, February 5, thousands of people in Copenhagen took to the streets to protest against the bill to abolish a public holiday in order to finance increased defense spending. It was the largest demonstration in Denmark in more than a decade.
The demonstration was organized by the country’s major labor unions in which at least 50 000 people participated.
The proposal to abolish the holiday was tabled in response to the Ukrainian war, as a means of raising tax revenues to support higher defense spending. The extra 4.5 billion Danish crowns needed for the country’s war aims could come from higher tax revenues if the holiday is abolished.
Economists countered the proposal however by pointing out that workers would simply adjust their working hours. Danish workers generally rely on collective agreements between themselves and employer groups without state intervention.
Despite the opposition, the government, which holds a small majority in parliament, plans to pass the bill.
Protesters came from countryside
The large demonstration at Christiansborg saw hundreds of angry Danes from as far as North Jutland attending.
“They sit over there and are elected and think they can just decide everything, but they just forget the population,” said the chairman of FH Nordjylland, Anna Kirsten Olesen, She said she was furious that the government wanted to replace the holiday Store Bededag with a normal working day.
That is why she and 578 others on Sunday from North Jutland took the long trip through Jutland, Funen and all the way to Copenhagen. Busses from Frederikshavn, Brønderslev, Hjallerup, Aalborg, Haverslev and Hobro also transported protesters to Copenhagen.
Beyond the actual physical protests, some 460 000 Danes had also signed a petition on Saturday to preserve the Great Day of Prayer. The chairman of FH Nordjylland pointed to the total lack of dialogue on the part of the government. “They forget to respect us and include us for advice and negotiations about these things,” she added.
“There must be some politicians who notice that there is so much unrest and a lack of support for their proposal to abolish Great Prayer Day,” Anna Kirsten Olesen noted.
FH North Jutland represents more than 45 trade unions in North Jutland, where there are over 110 000 members in total.
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