Global news outlet
Dec. 20, 2019
Bishop Gunnar Stålsett: “I declare myself guilty for having given work to the refugee woman”. Photo: Church of Norway
20 December 2019
Retired Bishop Gunnar Stålsett was convicted by an Oslo court as on 19 December, for having offered work and income to a rejected refugee who couldn’t be sent back to Eritrea. That became illegal in 2011, but Stålsett described himself as a conscientious objector to a law he views as simply wrong. Bishop Stålsett’s case attracted more media coverage in Norway and worldwide, after he was convicted of violating immigration law.
The court in Oslo handed Stålsett a suspended sentence of 45 days in jail for violating immigration law. Since the sentence was suspended, he won’t actually have to spend time in jail, but he was ordered to pay a fine of NOK 10,000.
Stålsett accepted both his conviction and sentence after earlier confessing to his crime in a courtroom packed with supporters and media just six days before Christmas. “I declare myself guilty for having given work to the refugee woman,” Stålsett said in court.
He also made it clear that he has never wanted his age (84) or his position as a retired bishop to accord him any special privileges in the case. He made it clear he has “no regrets,” and he was applauded as he left the court.
In a comment, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, says:
“Bishop Stålsett argues that this legislation is not consistent with the humanistic and Christian principles and values claimed by the Constitution. He shows that the law is not properly securing the human rights and dignity of all, including the most vulnerable. For this he deserves honour and thanks.”
Retired Norway bishop risks jail over principles (WCC press release, 5 December 2019) (https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/retired-norway-bishop-risks-jail-over-principles)
WCC member churches in Norway (https://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/europe/norway)