Christian camps being offered as shelter for asylum seekers are told by the authorities to remove all Christian symbols.
Due to the large influx of asylum seekers to Norway, UDI (Immigration authorities) has found it necessary to lodge asylum seekers in more places than ordinary reception centres.
The Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS), operates several Christian camp sites, which they offer to rent to UDI.
UDI says yes please, but on one condition.
All Christian symbols must be removed before the asylum seekers can move in, says UDI, according to the newspaper Dagen.
- We want the accommodation offered to be religiously neutral, says Vibeke Schjem, press advisor in UDI, to Dagbladet.
She explains that this means that objects should not show signs of belonging to a particular religion or belief, because the housing will be used by people who seek asylum in Norway, regardless of origin, political views, religion or belief.
NMS has agreed to the deal and are now forced to take down the cross and other Christian symbols.
- It is not something we do gladly, but we have chosen to show charity for the people coming. I do not think the asylum seekers would necessarily react to the symbols, but we have to follow UDI's guidelines, says communication manager at NMS to Dagbladet.
Roy Steffensen from the Progress Party reacts to the demand from UDI.
- I understand that asylum centres should be politically and religiously neutral, but I interpret it so that the camps would not engage in active ministry, which is said they will respect. The cross however, is not just a religious symbol, but also a part of our heritage and part of our flag. I do not know what the background of this regulation is for UDI, but if they fear that people are offended by being surrounded by Christian symbols, then perhaps those people applied for asylum in the wrong country, he writes in an e-mail to Dagbladet.
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