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Massacre born of ideology or faith?

Europe | Religion & Conflict

AWFUL. HORRIBLE. WE SIMPLY CANNOT UNDERSTAND IT!  Acts so unbelievably filled with cruelty and hatred.  This is not something we do in Norway, is it? 

These and other somber words have flooded Norway's newspapers, TV, blogs and social media.


A country woke up to the news that at least 76 young men and women had been killed – no, massacred – at the governing Labor party's youth camp Utøya.  The island, turned killing field, had been known for more than 50 years as a summer paradise for young and politically radical youth in the Labor party movement eager to fight for their political convictions. Earlier in the day a huge explosion from a fertilizer-based car bomb had already killed at least 7 people at government offices in the center of Oslo.

Friday, July 22, will forever be a day of remembrance in Norway. A total of 76 killed in the two attacks: 68 at Utøya (police revised the initial death toll downward on Monday), and 8 downtown Oslo. Another 66 were injured at the island, and an additional 30 were wounded, many seriously, in downtown Oslo.  And still at least 7 people are unaccounted for. 

For many Norwegians, July 22 was the last day before vacation, but it was otherwise mundane.  Meteorologists had predicted more than a month's worth of rain during the day, and most Norwegians shrugged their shoulders in despair over far too much rain for the summer season.  And they dressed that morning to brace for a couple of soggy days they might as well have spent in the sea.

Now that the day has become a profound and historic tragedy, the question people in Norway and around the globe have been asking is, of course, why? What has made a young, conservative person become a terrorist?  What ideology or belief could ever justify such atrocities?

Christian and Fundamentalist?

The first explanation by Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen in Oslo has been quoted by many media: "He confirmed that Mr. Breivik belongs to a Christian, fundamentalist, extreme-right environment in Norway." (Source: Aftenposten, in Norwegian.)

However, this description might have been largely misunderstood and misinterpreted, if not simply mistaken and false.

We do know for certain that, unbelievably, 32-year-old Anders B. Breivik (pictured) took several years to prepare for the massacre and bombing on 22 July, according to his own writings. Just a few minutes before heading to downtown Oslo to murder dozens of his countrymen, he finished a 1500+ page manifesto: “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.”

In the massive compendium he (and maybe others?) writes in detail about his ideological theories as well as personal values and faith. On page 1309 he says:

“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian...

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