Kjære alle sammen/Good afternoon to all
Thank you for inviting me to this very, very special occasion,
And thank you to all who are here to celebrate today; to the representatives of the Seamen’s Church HQ in Norway, to the Thai church authorities, the architects and contractors, to all Norwegians in Pattaya and elsewhere in Thailand, to pastor Ragnvald and wife Liv and other staff at the church and all others who have taken an interest in this Norwegian church abroad.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Norwegian Seamen’s Church is a safe haven for all Norwegians in Thailand, and especially for all of you here in the Pattaya area. We know the church as a meeting place where people with all kinds of background and each with their own life stories can find pleasant company, a listening ear and freshly baked waffles.
Norwegians love Thailand. That is why we have a large group of Norwegian expats here and that is why Thailand is the second most popular destination for Norwegians (after Spain).
The Seamen’s church has a mandate to deliver church services to all Norwegians in Thailand, but of course it is the people living in the Pattaya area who are the lucky ones to take advantage of the Church on a regular basis. The Seaman’s Church has become a vital part of the large Norwegian community here in Pattaya, but also a place where a lot of travelers have found friendly social settings.
Through concerts, social nights, celebrations of Christmas and the 17th of May, field trips, church services and “lørdagsgrøt”, the Seamen’s Church is creating a warm, open and generous community where everyone is welcomed. I feel it very much on a day like this.
While I live and work with my colleagues at the Norwegian Embassy in Bangkok, we are very grateful for the close cooperation we have enjoyed with the Church throughout the years. Both the Embassy and the Church are in the business of assisting Norwegians in need of services – in good times and in bad times. The Embassy however cannot do everything for every one which is why we appreciate so much how the church complements our services in an admirable way. The church does an incredibly important job in assisting Norwegians – when requested.
They visit Norwegians in hospitals and in prisons, they can provide grief counselling to individuals and groups that have been through tragic accidents and they assist in the follow-up, care and support of individuals, families and colleagues. The Embassy is regularly in contact with families that tell us about the genuine care and comforting counseling they have received in difficult times. The experience that the Seamen’s church has gathered over many years is of such value to the Norwegian Foreign Service, that we have a formal agreement specifying all the areas where the Church can assist and compliment us, especially in emergency situations and in the handling of crisis.
On a day like this I would also like to specifically thank pastor Ragnvald Seierstad and his wife Liv for almost six years of faithful service here in Pattaya. What a legacy you leave behind! Not only have you been the heart and soul of this place, you have also been in charge of this magnificent new building. You can return to Norway and retirement with great pride.
During my time as ambassador in Thailand I have always felt your support and willingness to assist us in any possible way. Thank you Ragnvald and thank you Liv as well as other staff at the Church.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to conclude by repeating that the work being done by the Seamen’s Church is of great value to the Norwegian Foreign Service and to all Norwegians. Both by bringing and creating joy, but also by being there for people that are enduring deep hardship.
Furthermore, the church building is in itself an important meeting ground for many people. You are truly creating “a home away from home”.
I wish you all a great opening day! The Embassy in Bangkok and the Norwegian Foreign Service look forwards to continuing our cooperation in many years to come.
Thank you all for your attention. And again congratulations on this great day.