Church religious liberty director urges caution in use of ‘fundamentalist’ label
Separately, the denomination’s religious liberty director urged careful dialogue on the incident and cautioned that the ideology of the man who confessed to the acts should be referred to as “extremist” instead of “Christian Fundamentalist,” as several news reports had indicated.
“Our thoughts are with relatives and friends of those who have been injured and killed,” said Reidar Kvinge, president of the Adventist Church in Norway. “We are appalled by the cruel disregard for human life these actions show.”
“The grave tragedy that has affected young, enthusiastic people gathered at Utøya must not lead us in Norway to let hatred prevail,” Kvinge said.
Norwegian native Anders Behring Breivik, 32, confessed to a pair of July 22 attacks, which killed 76 people, The Washington Post reported. Breivik allegedly was responsible for the bombing of a government building in the capital, Oslo, and later gunned down dozens of teens and young adults at a youth camp of the Labor Party on the island of Utøya in Lake Tyrifjord.
Breivik had apparently targeted the nation’s ruling Labor Party, a left-center party and historic supporter of immigration and multiculturalism. Breivik allegedly published earlier that day an online screed that railed against pluralism, including, in his words, the “Islamization of Western Europe.”
The afternoon bomb attack on the government building did not affect a nearby Adventist Church property in Akersgt, but services on Saturday were canceled on advice from police, said Torre Tjeransen, Communication director for the Adventist Church in Norway.
The Adventist Church’s national headquarters, along with a junior college, is located a few miles from the Utøya island in Lake Tyrifjord, Tjeransen said.
There are about 4,600 Adventists in Norway, a nation of about 4.9 million people.
In a statement today, John Graz, director of the Adventist world church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department said “media reporting that these attacks may have been motivated by right-wing Christian fundamentalism are profoundly disturbing.”
“Such acts are utterly alien to Christian teachings and values,” Graz said. “Violence carried out in the name of Christianity is an absolute distortion of a religion that finds its genesis in Jesus Christ, the ‘Prince of Peace.'”
Graz also urged caution in the use of the term “fundamentalist” to describe the individual alleged to have carried out the attacks, instead proffering the term “extremist” as a more accurate description of the type of ideology and behavior that falls far outside the norms of a religious community.
“There’s a risk that ‘fundamentalism’ will become blurred in people’s minds with the idea of ‘conservative Christianity’ — a confusion that could serve to widen the gulf of misunderstanding between different religious traditions,” he said.
“We must re-double our efforts to promote understanding and respect between people of different cultures and faiths,” he said.
–reporting by BUC News, IRLA and ANN staff