Henry Hedman
Humanist of the day

Henry Hedman

Henry Hedman has come a long way from Riihimäki Business College and a Canadian university to the Institute for the Languages of Finland and finally to the University of Helsinki, where he now works as a University Instructor in Romani and Roma culture. Research and teaching are close to Hedman’s heart because they enable him to act as a mediator between the Roma and the majority. Hedman is also a musician who has recorded several albums of religious music. He still gives occasional public talks and performs as a singer with his band.

Henry Hedman

Henry Matti Vihtori Hedman
Born March 8, 1952, Riihimäki

Master of Religion Education 1994, Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia (B.C.)
Studies for a Bachelor of Theology in 1977–1978, Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas
Vocational qualification in business and administration 1971, Riihimäki Business College

University Instructor, Romani and Roma culture, University of Helsinki
Musician, non-fiction author, theologist and translator

Researcher, Centre for the Languages of Finland 2002–2012
Executive manager, Romano Missio ry 1996–2000

Publications, research projects and other academic activities (linkiksi: http://tuhat.halvi.helsinki.fi/portal/en/person/hmhedma)

Awards and memberships in organizations
Advisory board on Roma Affairs, member 1986-, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, member of the Committee, appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland 2012-
Member of MG-S-Rom, a Council of Europe Group of Specialists 2002–2010
Awarded for work on materials and education in Romani by the National Board of Education and the Advisory Board on Roma Affairs, 2010
Person of the year in Riihimäki, 2001

Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Olli Silvennoinen

The Finnish Roma community has a 500-year history behind it. From the beginning, it has faced periods of collective doubt and criticism of its differences from the mainstream. Henry Hedman grew up in Riihimäki, where his father had worked hard for the acceptance of his Roma background. The family led a perfectly ordinary life in the midst of the majority population.

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The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe with approximately 10–12 million people. Outside of Europe, there are sizeable Roma communities in North and South America. In Finland, they number around 13,000. Only one out of three speaks the Finnish Romani language fluently, which makes the language endangered. The Finnish constitution, however, guarantees the rights of the Sami, the Roma and other groups to maintain and develop their own language and culture.

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My dream is to finish my doctoral dissertation before I reach the retirement age. In my research, I particularly want to find out how Roma culture fares in relationships in which only one party is a Roma. I hope that my research counters the received wisdom that such relationships supposedly destroy the culture.

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