Baptists pray for families of victims in Norway
O s l o / P r a g u e – With notes of sympathy to the Norwegian Baptist Union and prayers, Baptists in Europe and around the world have responded to the attacks in Norway. On July 22, the 32-year-old Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, first set off a bomb in the government district of Oslo, then launched a massacre on a Youth Camp of the Young Socialists on the Island of Utoya. At least 76 – mostly young – people lost their lives in the attack.
The General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, Tony Peck (Prague), EBF President Valeriu Ghiletchi (Chisinau/Moldavia) and EBF Vice President Hans Guderian (Berlin) expressed their sympathy in personal notes to the Norwegian Baptist Union. “We are shocked and saddened to learn of the terrible attacks in Norway,” wrote Peck, adding that Norway is thought of as a peaceful country which carries the message of peace around the world, making these attacks even more difficult to understand. Not only Baptists, but all churches in Norway are prayed for, that they may stand together and “may be able to share something of the love of God which is there even in such suffering and devastation.”
Ghiletchi, who is also active in politics, added that at his urging his government had sent an official note of condolence to the Norwegian Government, and that all the churches in his Baptist Union would pray for Norway. Guderian added that they would pray especially that God might strengthen those who had lost family members.
The General Secretary of the Norwegian Baptist Union, Terje Aadne (Oslo), is grateful for the many letters expressing solidarity and sympathy, and for all prayers. He wrote, “We have experienced a most horrific attack on human life, on our government and our nation.” He said that in Norway they are praying primarily that something good would arise from this meaningless and evil attack, a strengthening of the values on which the country of Norway is built: “Respect for the intrinsic value of human life, transparency, freedom, and a strong and inclusive democracy that stands in solidarity as a people, as well as together with the surrounding world community.”
In Germany, the 14-member Union of Evangelical Free Churches, of which the Baptist Union is also a member, condemned the massacre as “a particularly damaging form of blasphemy”. The Christian command to love your neighbour expressly applies to foreigners and requires standing up for the weak and needy.
Breivik justified his actions in a 1500-page manifesto, saying that he was against a multicultural society, Islam, and communism. In much of the media, he was labelled a “Christian Fundamentalist”. This assessment was rejected by Rolf Ekenes (Oslo), the General Secretary of the Norwegian Council for Mission and Evangelization. As he emphasized, Breivik’s bloody deed was inconsistent with Christian thinking and Christian ethics. According to Ekenes, if he calls himself a Christian, he must mean that he belongs to a Christian culture, as opposed to a Muslim or other culture. Breivik did not belong to any evangelical organization.
82 percent of the approximately five million inhabitants of Norway are members of the state Lutheran Church. 1.6 percent are Muslim. Eighty-nine congregations totalling about 5,600 members belong to the Baptist Union.