Calling the Bishops bluff

Back in 2005, when the current Bishop of Borg, Atle Sommerfeldt was the Secretary General of the Norwegian Church Aid, he not only approved of, but actively engaged in a long list of anti-Israel demonstrations. When challenged by the Norwegian Pentecostal movement, who warned they would pull out of the organisation unless the NCA would stop its anti-Israel engagement, the then Secretary General said in a comment to the Norwegian Christian daily, Norge Idag:

It would be a betrayal of Christians in Bethlehem unless the Christians in Europe focuses on the difficulties that the wall around Bethlehem causes, he says, commenting on the demonstration, which was a protest against Israel of defense against terrorism.

Several years down the road, after the Christian population in the Middle East has been all but decimated (with one notable exception – Israel), Bishop Sommerfeldt appears to have had little time for his Christian brethren in this extremely volatile and dangerous part of the world. His disdain for the fate of his fellow Christians in this region includes the Israeli Christians right to preserve their own identity separate from Israeli Arab Muslims, for whom he has had no words of support or even recognition.

True, the Bishop of Borg has participated in a local demonstration in support of Iraq’s ancient Christian community, but neither he, nor his colleagues, who otherwise are hyperactive on behalf of Palestinians, have called for a greater involvement from the Church of Norway or its affiliated organisations, such as precisely the NCA:

lifted from (google translate)

Church silent about the suffering Church in Iraq
Tuesday 12, August 2014, at. 9:52 Updated: Tuesday 12, August 2014, at. 11:22
Silje Rognsvåg
Persecuted Christians

Summer and lack of interest from the media leads to the Norwegian Church seems silent and invisible on the crisis in Iraq.
– We are in a situation where Christians in Norway should be a stronger voice in public and at street level, said Jan Gossner, Chairman of Stefanusalliansen to day.

He perceives the Norwegian church silent on the matter.

– Yes, it is strange that no more bishops and agency of the Norwegian Church is more involved. The Christian Council should have had an emergency meeting and agreed on a statement. They should say a few words indicative of how Christians can engage said Gossner.

Read also: How to help refugees in Iraq

Blames holiday
Bjørgvin-Bishop Halvor Nordhoug provides summer and missing calls from journalists blame for the Norwegian Church has been invisible in the media about Iraq.

– You are the first who have asked me, says bishop to

Nordhoug emphasizes that he will give a speech at a ceremony organized by the Christian Democratic Party in Bergen on Wednesday.

Borg-Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt does not agree that The Norwegian Church is silent on the Iraq crisis. Last week, he participated in a local demonstration, and he urged their congregations to pray for the situation.

The President of Bishops’ meeting, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, communicates to day deep concern about the situation in Iraq and called on Christians and churches to pray for Christians and other minorities being chased fleeing.

Must shout louder
Open Doors agree with Stefanusalliansen that the Norwegian church so far has been silent in public.

– Gaza issue has been much more front, also with statements from Christian leaders, while there are few statements about todays situation in Iraq. At the same time, I meet many Christians who are very concerned about this. I assume it comes commentary from Christian leaders eventually, says Secretary General Morten Askeland.

The front pages of the websites of the Norwegian Church Aid and the Church does not mention Iraq at all. The church profiles on Twitter and Facebook is the case mentioned in a few posts.

Active Online
In comparison, the Catholic Church Iraq at the top of his website and several posts in social media.

January Gossner believe that the church should be active on their own website and social media with remarks on the crisis in Iraq.

– Yes, it’s a modern action form where people can initiate actions. People wonder why Christian leader in Norway do not shout louder at the injustice they see and hear every day. But one should not create antagonism between different channels working through. The church also has other channels they use, says chairman of Stefanusalliansen.

Changes website
– We can certainly get better at informing the public about the plight of Christians can be improved, admits general secretary of the Church Council, Berit Hagen Agøy to day.

She emphasizes that it is not the church’s main priority to update, especially in a phase where the pages should be changed.

The Norwegian Church at national level has no direct work in Iraq, but the Inter-Church Council works with partners in the Middle East and internationally.

– The target audience for us is to help Christians and other minorities in the region. When all priorities on how we can best support their work. If the Norwegian public opinion is the target audience, it is easiest to post comments on our website. But asking the this situation in parishes across the country, says Hagen Agøy.

She says that she has posted information from partners in the Middle East on her Facebook profile throughout the summer.

Danish silence
In Denmark criticized now Danish Missionary Society and church NGOs to be silent about the persecution and murder of Christians in Iraq, and to be late in time, according to the Christian Dagblad.

– If organizations truly is our Christian representatives and ambassadors must also be on the pitch, says parish priest and immigrant Massoud Fouroozandeh at St. His Church in Odense.

The minister believes that organizations have a general fear of engaging with this difficult topic and are reluctant to confront Muslims.

Can poison the relationship
Criticism rejected by the people of the Church between Church Council, DanChurchAid and Danmission.

– It’s not about being clever, but to be realistic and listen to what the Christians in the Middle East says is best for them. They are grateful for our prayers and support, but they do not live with you or me in Roskilde and Copenhagen, but with their Muslim neighbors. If we demonize Islam in general, we risk contributing poisoning of relations between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, says chairman Danmission and Roskilde Bishop Peter Fischer-Møller for Christian Dagblad.




1 comment for “Calling the Bishops bluff

  1. motti
    October 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Of course since the western allies went into Iraq to “ensure” civilisation and democracy, the Iraqi government still will not allow Jews into their ancient homes.
    950.000 Jewish refugees from what are now Islamic lands in north Africa and the middle east. This exodus is now being repeated by those of the Christian faith, and let us be honest here, the ME Christian Arabs are no better than their Arab Muslim neighbours.

    When Israel handed over Bethlehem, as a sign of good faith, the royal City of King David, the whole of Manger Square was dotted with banners all around it. Did they thank Israel? No! Did they offer encouragement of peace? So what did the banners state? The written language was in Arabic and stated “Today the Saturday people. Tomorrow the Sunday people.” Enough Arabist supporters within the media speak and read Arabic but, these banners were never translated. Why ever not????? So should we have compassion for those Christians in the middle east? Yes, the same compassion they showed towards the 950.000 Jews who were ethnically cleansed.

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