Photo: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay)
Residents in Norway are turning to God to find answers and comfort after one of Europe’s worst lone-wolf terrorist attacks in history.
"This is a national tragedy," one bishop told reporters on Saturday.
Reporters on the scene say the mood is disbelief in the aftermath of the attacks that took the lives of nearly 100 people, many of them teenagers. The mass murders have left the country in shock and dismay.
"When an event like this happens to young people especially – it is a crime against the entire nation," Dr. Patrick Long, a retired pastor in New Orleans, La., told The Christian Post.
"Our nation is praying for a praying nation. It is shocking that such a peace-filled country saw such hatred in one man who obviously did not know where his loyalties were and was without a doubt, insane. Christians around the world will have to pull together to help Norway in the following months to come."
Previously Oslo, known for the Nobel Peace Prize awards, had experienced no acts of terrorism before Friday's horrific events.
The first atrocity was the car bombing. Then, two hours later, came the attack on the island.
A 32-year-old Norwegian man named Anders Behring Breivik is the prime suspect in the murderous rampage.
Police told reporters that Breivik's targets of his anger were government officials and children associated with the governing Labor Party, not immigrants. It has been reported that the car bomb exploded near the office of the prime minister, who had planned to attend on Saturday the youth camp his party sponsored.
Breivik was reportedly dressed as a policeman and told the youth group he had come there as part of a security detail to protect them. Police told reporters that the suspect had never been a member of the police force but had served time in the army.
Witnesses say the suspect called on the children on the island, aged between 14 and 18, to gather around him. Then he opened fire. Police said he used automatic weapons and a handgun.
The gunman then moved across the small, wooded island of Utoeya firing at young people who scattered in panic or tried to swim to safety.
The death toll is now reported as the worst in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the work of Islamic terrorists that killed 191 people.
At a news conference, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Norway is a quiet nation of 4.8 million.
"A paradise island has been transformed into a hell," he told reporters.
A local newspaper reported that Bishop Laila Riksaasen Dahl of the Church of Norway diocese in Tunsberg, along with other clergy, met with survivors and relatives of those slain by the gunman.
Riksaasen Dahl told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that many of the young people had seen close friends gunned down, or had themselves been victims of the shooting.
"The scope of this nightmarish story is so unbelievable," Riksaasen Dahl told the newspaper.
Churches across the country planned to remain open all day Saturday to offer prayers and comfort, Riksaasen Dahl said. "Every death notice is tragic, but when there are so many who are affected, it's overwhelming to take in."
Some prayer services were broadcast live over Norwegian radio Saturday.
A BBC reporter said today that emotions were running high at the lake and many survivors were hostile toward the media for intruding on their grief.
Police say they are sifting through the life details of Breivik to find answers as to his motives behind the murders.
“He describes himself as a Christian, leaning toward rightwing Christianity, on his Facebook page,” according to local authorities.
However, National Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim said the postings “suggest he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views.”
Breivik’s Facebook page, before it was taken down, also listed a number of classical philosophical and literary works as his favorite books. He posted True Blood and Stargate Universe as among his favorite television shows, and names World of Warcraft as among his favorite games.
"According to a Google translation of a Norwegian news article, however, Breivik's Facebook profile was created only recently, and he had a previous profile on the page where he expressed "controversial" right-wing opinions. He considered himself a "nationalist" and was strongly opposed to multiculturalism and to Islam," reports The Los Angles Times today.