Norway's biggest church, the (Lutheran) Church of Norway, has apologized to the nation's Romanies—once known as gypsies—for its ill treatment of their people in the past.

The apology was made November 16 at the church's general synod after being approved in a unanimous vote by church representatives. It was then accepted by national representatives of the Romany people who attended the synod.

The apology states: "The general synod 2000 apologizes and asks the Romanies for forgiveness for the injustices and infringements [of their rights] committed against their people by the church."

The number of Romanies in this Scandinavian nation is a matter of dispute, but the official representative of the nation's Romanies puts the figure at 20,000 out of a total population of 4.3 million.

Romanies in Norway were persecuted for many decades, particularly early in the 20th century. Laws were passed in an attempt to make these nomadic people settle in one place, and several institutions tried—often using harsh methods—to forcibly assimilate Romanies into Norwegian society and eradicate their cultural heritage, including their language, music, and religion.

Many of the organizations involved in the suppression of Romany culture were run by the church or managed by clergy. The most prominent was the Norwegian Mission among the Homeless which is now believed to have been responsible for at least 40 percent of forced sterilizations of Romany women, mainly in the 1930s and 1940s.

Up to 300 women were sterilized against their will, and about 1,700 children were taken away from their mothers and adopted by other families or placed in children's homes. This process continued ...

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