• Norway's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Norway's call to remove crosses causes backlash
The Norwegian immigration authorities stressed that the guidelines applied to all religious symbols. Photo: Scanpix

Norway's call to remove crosses causes backlash

The Local · 30 Nov 2015, 20:17

Published: 30 Nov 2015 14:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Nov 2015 20:17 GMT+01:00

UPDATE, Nov 30 at 8.17pm: The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) announced via a press release on Monday afternoon that it is dropping its requirement that private organizations that house refugees be "religion neutral". 
 
"We will not require that those who run overnight offers for us remove religious symbols after all," UDI wrote. 
 
"The past days have seen a lot of questions regarding UDI's rules for running housing locations for asylum seekers and whether these places can have visible religious symbols, for example Christian or Muslim symbols. UDI wishes to stress that we do not know of any asylum seekers who have asked for the symbols to be removed. 
 
ORIGINAL, Nov 30 at 2.27pm: The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has told facilities scheduled to receive asylum seekers to remove crosses, images of Jesus and other religious symbols, the Christian newspaper Dagen reported
 
Several of the sites are Christian community centres and UDI’s guideline stating that “rooms offered to asylum seekers must be religion-neutral” has not been greeted warmly by all. 
 
While TV2 reported that several Christian organizations have agreed to remove crosses from their premises, one that will not be doing it is the Evidence of Faith (Troens Bevis) centre in Kvinesdal, which could host 1,000 refugees.
 
The group's leader, Rune Edvardsen, said that the centre's cross will remain. 
 
“The hall was built by Christians who wanted to spread the word of God. To remove the cross from the hall would be like remove the rose from the Labour Party [Arbeiderpartiet]. It is a thought of no interest,” Edvardsen told Fædrelandsvennen newspaper. 
 
Edvardsen wrote on Facebook that although he would not remove the cross, he would “lovingly […] help the refugees and aid the authorities’ lack of space” should UDI request assistance. With room for 1,000 refugees, the Evidence of Faith facility could become one of the largest asylum centres in Norway, although no official decision has yet been made by UDI. 
 
Other Christian groups have agreed to UDI’s request. 
 
“I don’t think that Muslims care if there is a cross, but it is fine. We will remove it. I’m proud that we can accept refugees. We want to help. We are Christians and we will warmly welcome them,” Jelte Smith, who heads a Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) campground in southern Norway, told Fædrelandsvennen.
 
UDI has defended its guidelines by saying that they do not specifically target Christianity. 
 
“It is important to specify that this applies to all religious symbols, not just the Christian ones,” press spokeswoman Vibeke Schjem told Dagen.
Story continues below…
 
UDI’s response has done little to squash the controversy, however. 
 
In a sharply-worded editorial, Dagen’s editor-in-chief said UDI’s decision to ban the display of crosses in a country whose very flag contains the Christian symbol was an embarrassment that is being used on social media “as a prime example of the Norwegian authorities’ genuflection to Islam”.
 
“Asylum seekers and migrants have no reservations in passing the Norwegian border despite the cross in our flag being one of the first things they see. They surely wouldn’t be hurt by crosses in Christian centres either,” Vebjørn Selbekk wrote. 
 
UDI’s decision to house refugees in community centres comes as at least 30,000 people have sought asylum in Norway, a country of 5.2 million, since the beginning of the year. 

For more news from Norway, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.no)

Today's headlines
Norway PM hunts Pokémon in Slovakia
Solberg, shown here at the Arendal political forum earlier this month, said she recently got hooked on Pokémon Go. Photo:Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix

An avid gamer, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg took a break from her official duties in Bratislava this week to hunt for Pokemon monsters in the Slovak capital's old town.

Western Norway braces for extremely heavy rains
Heavy rains in Bergen earlier this month. Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB scanpix

Residents requested to stay off the roads.

Norwegians conquer England in record time
(L-R) Øystein Garfos, Øystein Djupvik, Andreas Munkelien and Gunnar Garfors

Another wacky record in the books for Norway's extreme travellers.

Norway asylum centres report increase in teen prostitution
File photo of an asylum centre in Råde. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Reports increased fivefold between 2014 and 2015 and officials fear there are more unreported cases.

New signs of life in the Norwegian economy
Finance Norway CEO Idar Kreuetzer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix

Positive signals in Finance Norway’s quarterly expectations survey are being interpreted as yet another sign that the Norwegian economy is over the hump.

Car fires in Oslo as burnings reported across Scandinavia
There is no immediate indication that the Oslo car fires are connected to the more than 70 car fires in Malmö, pictured here. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT/Scanpix

No indication that the two car fires in the Norwegian capital are connected to a series of suspected arson attacks in Sweden and Denmark.

Five things to know about the Philippine peace talks in Oslo
Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende greets participants as the peace talks get underway in Oslo on Monday. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Can the talks in Oslo put an end to a nearly 50-year rebellion?

Norway talks spur hopes for Philippine peace deal
(L-R) Jose Maria Sison (NDFP), Elisabeth Slåttum, FM Børge Brende, Jesus Dureza (GPH) and Luis Jalandori begin peace talks. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB Scanpix

Norway-mediated talks aim to end one of Asia's longest insurgencies.

Scenes for next Star Wars film could be filmed in Norway
Could Preikestolen be the setting for an epic battle in the next Star Wars film? Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

May the Force be with us.

15 hurt as Oslo concert venue ceiling collapses
Photo: Fredrik Varfjell / NTB scanpix

"Total chaos" at concert attended by Norwegian Business School students.

Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Frozen effect bringing 'too many tourists' to Norway
Travel
Frozen effect bringing 'too many tourists' to Norway
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Norway's angel princess divorces novelist husband
Norway's angel princess divorces novelist husband
Norwegian motorist kills 19 reindeer in bloody collision
National
Norwegian motorist kills 19 reindeer in bloody collision
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
'Tick here please': Changing gender in Norway gets easier
Lifestyle
'Tick here please': Changing gender in Norway gets easier
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Danish scientist: Mysterious 'blue blob' caused by weather
National
Danish scientist: Mysterious 'blue blob' caused by weather
Norwegian school permits burkini in swimming classes
Education
Norwegian school permits burkini in swimming classes
Norway's ‘biggest sovereignty concession’ to EU in years
National
Norway makes ‘biggest sovereignty concession’ to EU in years
Norway boosts defence against Russia threat
International
Norway boosts defence against Russia threat
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
FACT-CHECK: No, Norway isn’t banning diesel and petrol cars
National
FACT-CHECK: No, Norway isn’t banning diesel and petrol cars – yet
Norway aims to be climate-neutral by 2030
National
Norway aims to be climate-neutral by 2030
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Migrant numbers plunge as Norway now 'less attractive'
National
Migrant numbers plunge as Norway now 'less attractive'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Record number of kids mark Norway's National Day
Take a ride on Norway's most spectacular road
Travel
Take a ride on Norway's most spectacular road
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
National
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Norway violated mass murderer's human rights: court
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
Lifestyle
Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
2,015
jobs available