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The Mess in Norway
Another mess is taking place. This time in Norway. A mother and her child are on the receiving end of a custody battle. The workers in the area are endorsing the separation of the child from his mother. Read on:
May 6, 2002
Quite a number have asked for a short description of our recent worries here, regarding the unhuman and extremely unchristian (to say the least), treatment of our dear friends Astrid (Katle) and Grant Barnato have been subjected to in Norway. I will try and give a little account as to how it seems to me.
Even before the present mess, Astrid, as a single unmarried mother in a major professing family, as some could understand, faced condemnation by many in the fellowship - but kept true to God in spite of it all. This last December, when she fell in love with Grant, who after considerable number of years in the work (in South America), was rejected, expelled and defined by workers internationally, as unfit to be amongst the "worthy people," her family really blew their top. Strangely enough, in the ensuing tumult, the family (including a sister in the work) seemed to gather together the political clout to have her committed to a mental hospital for a short period of time - until the legal system caught up with it, and forced her release. Unfortunately this period in a closed mental institution gave her "tormenters" the basis to apply for, and arrange temporary custody of her 2 year old child, and now they all refuse her access to him. They feel she is a "bad influence!!"
Seems like the workers in Scandinavia seem to support her family in these ugly things. I can't understand it. The propaganda flow is extreme. Even we, who are "out of the fellowship," hear it from every direction, 90% is complete untruth, the other 10% is professional contortion of truth. Lily called us on the phone a while back and asked us to regard Grant as insane!!
Ordinary legal procedures traditionally work slowly in these countries, so the present legal battle is to declare the previous custody decision (which revoked her legal parental rights), as illegal. If this goes through, she will gain immediate access to her son again. Her lawyers seem to believe that her case is extremely strong in this regard. (The time frame for a decision now is a matter of weeks). As most know legal battles are messy things, but it is the only option open for Astrid to regain access to her son. Fortunately, she has very good lawyers and they seem to enjoy working on a case they really believe in.
In this, it is important to remember she is not a little girl - she is in her late 30's and with a respected profession (dentist) as well as her own home and business (which is being sold to cover legal costs). There is nothing wrong with her mental health or her thinking capacity - she does have some rather frayed nerves - but who wouldn't in this situation? Fortunately, since she married Grant (which she did directly after release from the hospital) they have their mutual love for each other, to give them strength.
I have briefly given the story as I understand it - you will understand that the emotional tumult, on both sides, has not been less. I would like to ask those who are parents, to try and imagine the feeling we would have, if we were subjected to this kind of situation with our little children. What would you think if it was you? We have appreciated having both Grant and Astrid in our vicinity and can guarantee that we value them both very much and have great admiration for, especially Astrid's, emotional strength, as she goes through some of the most inhuman treatment possible, instigated by her family and justified by the man-made religious ideas that she had previously put her trust in.
We were told yesterday in a visit with Astrid, that her sister in the work has asked her to divorce her husband and commit herself to a mental institution as conditions for regaining custody of her 2-year-old child. Is it a wonder her nerves are frayed? Fortunately, Grant has recently been granted a residence visa in Sweden so has been able to dodge the efforts of Astrid's family and their political influence to get him expelled from the country. Grant has apparently been declared by the workers (with Lily as their mouthpiece) as unwelcome in all the friends' homes in all of Norway. Amazing, isn't it, in a fellowship that has the gall to profess love for their fellow man! The other Barnatos here in Sweden have also been told to not come to meetings!! Talk about ugliness!