Church's Outreach Program to Muslim Asylum Seekers Causes Controversy

August 27, 2004

Source: Aftenposten

On August 27, 2004 Aftenposten reported, "The Pentecostal Church has created a controversial revival movement among Muslim asylum seekers in the greater Oslo area. In the past six years 16,000 refugees have visited the white wooden church in Sandvika, a suburb in Bærum just west of the capital. Some asylum center leaders say the church is tricking their visitors... Since 1998 over 16,000 asylum seekers have attended the church's Thursday meetings. About 70 percent of these visitors have been Muslims. The revivalist campaign has also resulted in 80 former Muslims letting themselves be baptized. The congregation drives their own bus around and often enters the centers to meet the refugees. This has led to tighter security, and the Hvalstad center for underage asylum seekers banned the Pentcostalists earlier this year. The Hvalstad center found the recruiting unpleasant, and felt the youngsters were being lured with refreshments and day out without being warned in advance that they would be attending a Christian meeting, an aspect that can lead to various complications. The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) said that how the arrangement and approach of the Pentecostalists is handled is up to the respective centers to decide. NOAS, the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers, tries to inform and advise refugees, and often feels that the revivalists are putting problematic pressure on the newcomers. The church said that they would abide by the rules of the centers and were just trying to spread the light."