Support swells for Christian family in Norway after authorities seize children

Parental Rights
by Sarah Padbury
Posted 1/21/16, 03:00 pm

When Marius and Ruth Bodnariu sent their daughters off to school one day last fall, they had no idea they would not come home. And they certainly never imagined their three sons would also be gone before the next sundown—all five children seized by the Norwegian government because of their parents’ Christian beliefs.

Tens of thousands of citizens across the globe have joined in protesting the Norwegian Child Welfare Agency’s seizure of the children after a school principal reported their parents for “indoctrinating” their children.

The Bodnariu family lives in Naustdal, Norway, where Marius works as an IT engineer for the mayor’s office and Ruth is a nurse at the local hospital. Marius is Romanian and first met Ruth, who is Norwegian, when they both served at Open Doors Foundation, a Romanian Christian charity that serves disadvantaged children and families. They were married and became members of the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church in Bucharest. The couple eventually moved to Norway to raise their children in Ruth’s hometown. But their idyllic village life turned into a nightmare last November, according to a Facebook post written by Marius’ brother, Daniel Bodnariu.

On Nov. 16, the Norwegian child welfare agency, called Barnevernet, removed the Bodnariu’s two daughters from school without their parents’ knowledge. Later that day, police arrived at the Bodnarius’ home and removed two of their three sons, leaving the 3-month-old baby with Ruth. Marius rushed home from work, and he and Ruth went to the police station to find out what was going on, but received no answers. The next day, police came again to the home and removed the baby, claiming Ruth’s display of tears at the police station the day before posed a danger to the child, according to a relative, Cristian Ionescu.

Two days later, Barnevernet officials informed the couple the children were “integrating well” into two separate foster homes. The Bodnarius were accused of “Christian radicalism and indoctrination.” One of the officials allegedly said to Ruth, “The kids don't even miss you. What kind of parents are you?” reported.

On Dec. 2, Daniel Bodnariu posted on Facebook the couple had finally received documents detailing what led up to the removal of their children. The investigation started when the principal where the girls attend school notified Barnevernet she had concerns about how the girls were disciplined at home because the parents were “very Christian,” as was the extended family. She said the family had “a strong faith that God punishes sin” that “creates disability in children.” The principal noted although the girls were creative, intelligent, and showed no signs of physical abuse, she believed the parents needed “help and guidance” in raising their children.

Barnevernet workers interrogated the girls at school regarding their home life. The girls reported they sometimes hid things from their parents for fear of being punished by getting an ear pulled or slapped across the behind or upside the head, but neither was afraid to go home.

One of the girls gave an example that the baby reached out and took Marius’ glasses off, whereupon he shook the baby “as a rag.” But Marius reports the story differently: He leaned over the baby and was thrilled when, for the first time, the baby reached out for him, so he took him in his arms and bounced him.

“Children can see things differently, and sometimes misinterpret some of our actions, or certain events,” Daniel Bodnariu wrote. “You can easily manipulate a child to say something that is not true. The law in Norway gives almost total credibility to the child and none to the parent. Some situations are seen differently by children [and] it seems a monstrosity to exploit this to the detriment of the family.”

The documents also revealed the baby received X-rays and a CT scan that showed no signs of abuse. In a follow up interrogation, the daughter reiterated Marius shook the baby, but then said, “I am tired. I don’t know what else to make up.”

Barnevernet has been under fire from the international community for years, accused of targeting immigrant families for child removal due to cultural misunderstanding and prejudice. A website called StopBarnevernet profiles dozens of stories of children being taken from families who immigrated from Lithuania, Brazil, Czech Republic, United States, Slovakia, Russia, India, Turkey, Sweden, and Iraq. Families who have had their children taken by Barnevernet also connect on a Facebook page called “Norway, give us back the children you stole.”

The Anti Juvenile Justice Agency (AJJA) is a European information agency that reports on the dangers of countries defining “juvenile justice” apart from the nuclear family.

“The main dilemma [in modern democratic states] is how to provide for and protect children without intruding on the parents’ rights of privacy and their right to a family life of their own choosing,” AJJA reported.

The Bodnariu’s story went viral via social media and church networking. Friends and family organized a variety of campaigns, from emailing Norwegian government officials to street protests. Mass demonstrations drawing tens of thousands have been held in over a dozen countries, with more planned through the end of the month. Cristian Ionescu started an online international petition on the family’s behalf. It had over 56,000 signatures as of today.

A delegation of 11 Romanian officials met with Barnevernet officials Wednesday to advocate for the release of the Bodnariu’s children, reported NRK, a Norwegian broadcasting company. But so far, the children remain in the custody of Barnevernet.

Thomas Sutherland posted on StopBarnevernet that he was a victim of the agency when he was a child. Now an adult and living in England, he stated he recently started therapy to deal with his childhood trauma and discovered he wasn’t alone in his experience.

“I would love to help in this cause, and I wonder if my story could help in this battle [to] ensure other families do not have to go through the same thing,” Sutherland wrote. “I know from first hand experience how most children feel [due to that] proposition: unwanted, confused and alone.”

Sarah Padbury

Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.

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  • William E
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    Hans: a red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue.  James was making a relevant and factual statement. I fail to see how that is a red herring.  And where is the irony? I believe your comment is a red herring.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    I am not disputing the fact that Breivik was not a Christian. In fact, he claims "Odinism," which for him is pretty clearly just a cultural moniker for supposed Nordic superiority, and hardly a legitimate religious conviction. My point was merely that James' post was a perfect example of a red herring.I should say that if the details as they are presented in this article are correct and we are not missing some concrete facts from the side of the Norwegian government, then the whole case is quite disturbing and is a clear example of the break down of the liberal value of personal freedom, not to mention an expression of pure cultural discrimination and bigotry. 

  • brodrew
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    I am not one to comment on stories, but I felt I needed to day something about Hans' comment to James.  Anders Behring Breivik was hardly Christian in any real sense of the word.  He may be considered a "cultural Christian," but that would be it according to his own words.  James is simply making a point about the need to be watchful for "Islamic Radicalism" as opposed to the supposed "Christian Radicalism."  It should also be noted that Breivik did not target Muslims but a meeting of the Youth League.  So, if Hans point is that we should be concerned about neo-Nazism, then I would certainly agree.  But, as Germany is presently experiencing, not everyone in the recent influx of the refugees is a fan of good behavior.  Sure, crime happens in every population, but this does not mean that we should live blindly and start persecuting Christian homeschool families when there are much more known and well established sources of radicalism.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    James, your comment is ironic considering that the largest terrorist attack in Norway was perpetrated by an anti-Muslim right-wing extremist. 

  • socialworker
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    And this is one of the countries that the left adores.

  • James
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    In an age of Islamic terror and radicalism these secular Norwegian bureaucrats are worried about Christian 'radicalism'? Something is clearly missing in their thinking because this is madness. The Norwegian government should be working to assimilate refugees for the Islamic World not persecuting Christian families. Strange that the officials explicitly accused the Bodnariu's of ''Christian Radicalism'' yet I doubt they'd accuse an extreme Muslim family of ''Islamic Radicalism'' for teaching violent jihad to children. 

  • William H
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:19 pm

    I'd expect this sort of travesty is places like China or the middle east, but Norway. Thought the Scandinavian countries were civilized.

  • Dale Murrish's picture
    Dale Murrish
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    There will be a coordinated worldwide protest on April 16, 2016. Please mark your calendars and participate in some way. 20 metropolitan areas in the USA. Not sure if metro Detroit is on the list, but I plan to try to organize something here - Christians and people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds who care about religious liberty.Also have an idea for signs on semi-trucks about this similar to the "we support our troops" seen frequently on America's highways.