WASHINGTON — Thousands of Romanian Pentecostal Evangelicals peacefully protested Norwegian embassies in five national capitals, including Washington D.C. on Friday, calling on the Norwegian government to free five children who were removed from their parents by child services last year after a teacher complained about the family's Christian faith.
The three sons and two daughters of Ruth and Marius Bodnariu were taken into custody by the Barnevernet (Norway's child services) on Nov. 16, 2015, after their daughter's teacher cited concern about the family's belief that "God punishes sin."
Despite not having been tried in a court of law, the children have been placed in three separate foster homes and the parents have been granted limited visitation rights. The family also claims that the agency has initiated the adoption process for the children on the grounds that they were physically abused.
Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Norwegian Embassy in Washington. Supporters who know the family told reporters that the claims that the children were abused is unproven and added that the Bodnariu family is one of thousands of "normal" families suffering because of the unjust actions of Barnevernet.
"We have a God and God is on our side because God created the family. The tradition of the family has been ordained by God. If you are going to fight us and fight the Bodnariu family, you also fight against God," Washington protest organizer Cristian Ionescu, who pastors the Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago and is also the vice president of the Romanian Pentecostal Union in the United States and Canada, said.
"Lately they are trying to characterize it as an abuse case. It never started as such. The teacher said that we need to bridge the gap between us and this family because they have radical Christian principles and we know that right now, everything that was considered decent two decades ago is considered 'radical,'" Ionescu added.
"You cannot indoctrinate your children in one religion and you cannot tell them about God and the attributes of God because that is offensive to so many people. Then it developed as an abuse case once Barnevernet understood that you cannot go against the family based on religious accusations of indoctrination."
Protests were also held at Norwegian embassies in the capitals of Ireland, Spain, Britain and Denmark.
Supporters at the Washington protest delivered a petition signed by over 7,000 American churchgoers to officials from the embassy urging the government to reunite the family. An online petition has also received over 50,000 signatures.
"When they came out to receive the signatures, they did what the Norwegian officials do — they say, 'We cannot look into individual cases,'" Norwegian human rights lawyer and activist Marius Reikeras told The Christian Post. "I believe that they will obviously notice what is going on here. I think that this case will settle out and Norway will have to give up to international pressure."