Norwegian Police Arrest Missionaries for Spreading Gospel At National Parade
By Peter J. Smith
OSLO, May 22, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Norwegian police arrested two Christian missionaries for spreading the Gospel to crowds alongside an Oslo parade celebrating the birthday of Norway’s constitution last week.
US evangelist Larry Keefer from Tampa, Florida, and Norwegian evangelist, Petar Keseljevic had come to the May 17 national event in Oslo, where Norwegians celebrate the 1814 ratification of Norway’s constitution with flag-waving, parades, and a public appearance of Norway’s reigning monarch, King Harald V. Police arrested the Christian missionaries as they were conversing with several members of the crowd beyond the parade lines.
In their first few dialogues with the police, officers asked them to move away from the Palace of the King, refrain from using a megaphone, and take their message anywhere else along the route out of sight of the King.
Both Keefer and Keseljevic moved to an area along the parade route where they conversed with several members of the crowd. "We’re here to celebrate today with you and tell you about Jesus," Keefer told some, while Keseljevic spoke to others and held aloft his banner, "Only Jesus the Christ can save you from sin and Hell. Read the Bible for details."
An officer then approached Keseljevic and spoke to him in Norwegian about their presence for several minutes and then departed.
In the meantime, several Oslo citizens objected that the missionaries were showing disrespect to Norway by spreading their religion on a national holiday.
Shortly afterwards a troop of officers arrived and arrested both evangelists. A video tape available on YouTube records the entire event both before the arrest and afterwards in the police car and outside the station. (Part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6U0xAISax4&feature=related, Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHJ8NF3_UOo&feature=related)
"It’s bad. It’s bad. You know they are transgressing a law already. They just arrested me because they are police, they are not telling us what laws we transgressed, because they think we are bothering people," said Keseljevic in the back of the police wagon. "People bother us, and [the police] were frustrated because they didn’t know how to do it legally."
Keefer and Keseljevic were detained by police for several hours after their arrest and then released. A trial has been scheduled for July 1, 2008 and the men face fines.
The International Human Rights Group (IHRG), which has represented the plight of Melissa Busekros and other homeschooling families in Germany, told LifeSiteNews that they are working with Norwegian attorneys to represent the missionaries.
The IHRG is already representing Keseljevic before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over his arrest last year in June for failing to obey a police order to desist from sharing his faith at a gay pride parade.
"What this is is a kind of rearing up of the police-state," Joel Thornton, President of IHRG, told LifeSiteNews. Thornton said that Europe is beginning a definite transition away from tolerance of people’s freedom of public speech and Norway is leading the way.
"This is the first of it, and it is going to get worse, and is going to spread throughout Europe. The basic principle is this: ‘we’re the police, you have rights, but when the police speak you have to do whatever they so no matter what rights you think you have.’"
Keefer has returned to Tampa, but will return to Norway in July for the trial. IHRG said that they are prepared to take this case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights "to protect the right of Christians to non-disruptively share their faith in public in Europe."
Watch the video documenting the activities and arrest of the Christian missionaries:
STREET PREACHERS ARRESTED IN NORWAY PART ONE
STREET PREACHERS ARRESTED IN NORWAY PART TWO