Ruth Bodnariu was doing what many parents do on a weekday afternoon. She was waiting for her two oldest daughters to come home from school on the bus.
“After 10 or 15 minutes, I started to get worried,” recalled Ruth. After more time had passed, two black cars arrived at the Bodnarius' home in Norway. But the girls were not inside.
Instead, there were officials from Barnevernet, Norway’s Child Protective Services. They told Ruth that her two girls were in their custody and then insisted on taking her two younger boys while Ruth was interrogated. The only child Barnevernet left with Ruth was her three-month-old baby.
But the next day the same black cars arrived at the family’s home. Initially, Marius Bodnariu, Ruth’s husband, thought the four children were returning home. But, instead, they took their youngest child into custody.
“I told Marius, ‘I think they’re going to take the baby,’ and there was nothing I could do,” remembered Ruth tearfully. If you are a parent, you understand the deep pain and helplessness Ruth must have felt when she was separated from her five children.
At first, Barnevernet officials pointed to the family’s occasional physical discipline, which is illegal in Norway. But after months of keeping the children in foster care, the real reason why they separated these children from their parents came to light.
The Bodnarius were teaching their children their Christian faith.
Parents will also understand how vital it is to pass your faith along to your children. It is a sure sign that society has lost its way when one of the most important duties of parenthood is prohibited by law.
For this reason, the separation of the Bodnariu family became an international scandal. Parents across Europe reached out to organizations like ADF International, concerned that the same thing might happen to them and their children.
It is clearly morally wrong to separate children from their parents simply because they are fulfilling their parental duty of passing on their faith. But it is also in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
Article 26 of the Declaration says “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is turning 70 this year. ADF International is taking this occasion to reaffirm the fundamental understanding that human rights are based on the inherent dignity of each person.
Ruth and Marius Bodnarius' right to educate their children—as well as their children’s right to a safe and loving home—was violated when Barnevernet separated them without warning.
Join ADF International in affirming the rights and dignity of all families by signing The Geneva Statement.
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