Human Rights in Norway

Petar and JoelAugust August 2007 

Norway

It has been a very busy time for us.  Additionally, we are at an important crossroads in the ministry:  We need your support to keep protecting the rights of believers in America and around the world.

Earlier this month our team was in Norway.  The IHRG is working with a Christian minister there who was arrested on June 30 of this year for sharing the Gospel message on the streets of Oslo during a large local parade.  Petar Keseljevic is, by his estimation, the first street preacher in Norway.  He went downtown on the 29th and 30th of June to share the Gospel with the people of Oslo.  Though Petar has known he was called to preach on the streets, this was the first week Petar had been on the streets.

What a dramatic start to his ministry!

He was told by city officials that he could exercise his free speech rights on the public sidewalks without a permit.  Yet, when he began preaching he was arrested.

Petar Keseljevic had his day in court on Tuesday, 7 August 2007.  I was able to work with a local attorney to properly structure Petar’s case, making sure it was not just about the local issue of obeying a police officer.  This case is about so much more.  It is about the right of a Christian to share his faith in public without the fear of arrest.  It is about putting a stop to the idea of a police state where citizens only have the rights granted to them by the local police department.  You can see the report we filed from Oslo at http://www.ihrg.org/Trial.html.

The argument was held before a three judge panel.  The most interesting thing about this panel is that two of the judges were what is known as “citizen-judges.”  They are not professionally trained judges, and they are not lawyers; these are randomly chosen citizens who hear the evidence and have a full vote on the decision.

The argument was made that Petar has a sincerely held religious belief that he must share the Gospel message in public on the sidewalks of his home city of Oslo.  We argued that he does not have to stop preaching just because his message might be incompatible with the views of local officials, including police officers.

The court issued its ruling.  Even though I knew the court had ruled against Petar, I found it interesting to read the opinion (you can read the full opinion on our web site) as the judge seemed to agree that Petar has a right to express his sincerely held religious beliefs in public places like he was doing.

Petar’s fine was reduced.  We immediately began to work on the appeal that had to be filed within fourteen days of the opinion.  Just this past Friday we were able to work with Petar’s Norwegian attorney and structure the arguments.  Again, we were able to make sure that the arguments made at the court of appeals in Norway included the international arguments that will be required when we ultimately bring this case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

If there is an oral argument in Norway (instead of a judgment on the briefs), we will need to be there.  Petar needs to know that we are standing with him.  He needs to know that you are praying for him.  Regardless of what happens next, we will ultimately have to be in Europe protecting Petar.

Petar told me after the hearing that he appreciated our being here.  He said that often he feels alone, but because we were here he was not alone.

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Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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