PORTLAND — An estimated 3,300 people gathered at a Portland park April 16 were among tens of thousands peacefully demonstrating in cities worldwide that day out of concern for a Christian family in Norway.
The protests in more than 20 metro area of the U.S. and Canada, the largest cities in Romania, and other cities in Europe and Australia denounced actions taken by Norway’s child protection agency against the family of Marius and Ruth Bodnariu. Marius Bodnariu is Romanian and his wife is Norwegian.
“We had an absolutely amazing protest here in Portland,” said Monica Man, a friend of the Bodnariu family, regarding the morning event at Director Park downtown. “Approximately 3,300 gathered in support of the Bodnariu family and those whose children were confiscated by Norway’s child protective services.”.
She said the rally ended with a mile-long march..
“Amazing weather, amazing people, great speeches and high enthusiasm,” she said. “There were doves released, choir songs, a band, youth groups and even motorcyclists all united for the same cause.”
Romanian-Americans are outraged at the news that unfolded in Norway over the last four months related to the Bodnariu family. The couple’s five children, including a nursing infant, were forcibly taken from their parents, who are accused of child abuse because the father has used physical discipline, including twisting an ear and spanking.
“Because of their profound way of living as Christian evangelicals in a predominantly atheist society, they have been labeled ‘radical Christians’ and were accused of ‘indoctrinating’ their children,” states a web site in support of the family.
Prior to last month’s international protests, worldwide concern had already been well demonstrated at earlier protests and marches that drew an estimated total 70,000 people at 62 gatherings in 56 cities and 26 nations.
The protesters contend that the actions of the Norway agency run counter to international laws, conventions and protected human rights.
In the Portland area, hundreds of people associated with the Philadelphia Romanian Pentecostal Church locally have taken part in the protests. About 500 participated in a Feb-ruary gathering of about 2,800 participants in front of the Norwegian consultate in San Francisco, Calif.
Marius Bodnariu has most of his relatives living in the United States as naturalized U.S. citizens; both of his parents, along with a married sister, live in the Atlanta, Ga., area, two other married sisters live in the Chicago, Ill., metropolitan area, and another married sister lives in the Portland area.
Diplomatic efforts with U.S. dignitaries, officials, and governmental departments have been initiated, fostered, and continue to expand as this case has gained interest and support worldwide.
Last November, Romanian-American pastor Cristian Ionescu of Chicago launched an online petition in support of the reunification of the Bodnariu family at www.ipetitions.com/petition/christian-family-persecuted
This petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures in less than 48 hours, more than 25,000 signatures in less than two weeks, and continues to gain attention and signers. The petition had nearly 60,000 signatures as of mid-April.
There are 38 families that have co-signed an appeal for international attention from the leaders of the European Union to the allged abuses perpetrated by Norway and calling for intervention in the case.
“Our utter desperation forced us to address you by this letter,” the appeal letter stated. “It forced us to write you about the reality of unspeakable abuse of power being committed by a supposedly advanced country even as we speak. The country in question is the Kingdom of Norway. We are addressing you, because Norway is systematically acting in breach of its legal obligations also against European citizens and their families, causing them great harm. The fact that Norway is not an EU member state cannot be seen as an excuse this time; quite opposite. It should be the reason for the Community institutions to step in and defend their citizens.”
For more information about the efforts, go to www.bodnariufamily.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Norway-Return-the-children-to-Bodnariu-Family.
Information also is available from the Portland Romanian church, which is at 5544 S.E. 128th Ave. Pastor is Vasile Cinpean and phone number is 503-751-6057.