(Photo: Reuters / Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/Scanpix)
The unprecedented shooting spree and bomb blast that killed over 90 people in Norway Friday “shocked” and “saddened” the Norwegian General Secretary of the World Council of Churches who appealed for international solidarity and prayers from the worldwide church.
The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of the WCC, was in Norway and had just left Oslo when he learned of a bomb ripping open buildings, including the prime minister’s office there, followed by fatal shooting of youth at a nearby island by a man dressed as a police officer.
“Attacking the core institutions of a democratic society and innocent youth gathered for a workshop to discuss political issues, leaves me shocked,” said Tveit, a Lutheran pastor. “Being close to these events, I am deeply saddened, realizing that this has happened in my beloved country, with its people, its leaders, and its institutions.”
The Rev. Dr. Arne Fjeldstad, an ordained Lutheran minister who lives in Oslo and is the CEO of Washington, D.C.-based global group of Christian journalists in mainstream media The Media Project, told The Christian Post the whole country was in shock.
“More than 84 young people massacred at a political youth camp is simply unbelievable and horrifying,” he said, adding that many people were planning to go to churches and light candles Saturday and Sunday.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said the attacker turned a “youth paradise into a hell.” “Many of those who lost their lives were persons I know. I know the young people and I know their parents,” he said at a news conference Saturday.
Tveit hoped Norway would “stand together as an open, peace-loving country also in the future” and for that, he said, the Norwegian people and government needed “the solidarity of the international society and the prayers of the worldwide church.”
“Now we know the reality of so many others in the world where violence pierces the lives of the innocent.”
Both attacks were apparently targeted at the ruling Labor Party. The Oslo bomb detonated near the prime minister’s office killing at least seven. And the at least 87 youngsters who were shot to death by a man dressed as a police official were attending a camp held by the youth wing of the Labor Party at Utoya Island.
Norwegian authorities believe the shooter, identified by Norway’s national broadcaster NRK as Anders Behring Breivik, was also behind the Oslo explosion. Breivik, a blond, blue-eyed Norwegian, was caught alive and was being interrogated.
TV2 channel said Breivik had links with right-wing extremists and was in possession of two weapons registered in his name.
Fjeldstad, who has been a newspaper journalist and editor in various Norwegian newspapers and the publisher of a large monthly magazine in the Middle East and North Africa, also said the 32-year-old “crazy guy appears to be a right-wing extremist … a culturally very very political Christian, running a company using fertilizers which he, of course, can use to make explosives.”
The attacker, Fjeldstad added, was apparently a member of the conservative progress party at one time and “baptized and confirmed in the church, but says the Protestant church will die.” “Seemingly, he also had contacts with some criminal gangs in Oslo out of necessity.”
But, other theories also abound.
British daily The Telegraph said Norway’s worst terrorist outrage “might be the first in a series of attacks on the West.” The carnage, the daily noted, followed repeated warnings that al-Qaida was planning a Mumbai [India]-style attack on countries involved in the war in Afghanistan, where Norway has about 500 troops.
Norwegian newspaper The Foreigner said the bombings could be a belated response to local newspapers and magazines republishing cartoons of Muhammad originally published by Jyllands-Posten of Denmark.
However, The Associated Press quoted an anonymous police official as saying that the suspect appeared to have acted alone in both attacks, and “it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all … It seems it’s not Islamic-terror related. This seems like a madman’s work.”
As the investigators and the national intelligence agency remained on their toes, the WCC executive urged, “Let us all stay together for a world of justice and peace, without hate and revenge, but with the values of democracy, caring for the dignity and the human rights of every person.”
“We are all created in the image of God,” he said.