Norway has experienced “an unprecedented and horrible level of violence against innocent people,” says the Norwegian head of a world churches' body.
The Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, a Lutheran pastor from Norway, and General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), made his comments in the immediate aftermath of a bomb attack and shooting in his home country which has claimed over 90 known victims.
Dr Tveit, who is currently in the country, had just left Oslo when he learned of the bombing of a government building that has left several injured and seven dead.
A gunman dressed as a police officer fired on youth attending a Labour Party political youth camp on Utoya Island, killing 85 people - with more fatalities feared.
The Norwegian authorities were quoted as saying the bombing and shooting may be linked and that they had apprehended the shooter on the island.
“Attacking the core institutions of a democratic society and innocent youth gathered for a workshop to discuss political issues, leaves me shocked,” Dr Tveit said.
“Being close to these events, I am deeply saddened, realising that this has happened in my beloved country, with its people, its leaders, and its institutions,” he added.
“In times like this, the Norwegian people and government need the solidarity of the international society and the prayers of the worldwide church,” he said. “Now we know the reality of so many others in the world where violence pierces the lives of the innocent.”
Dr Tveit has asked the member churches of the WCC for their prayers and solidarity, saying “we pray that Norway might be able to stand together as an open, peace-loving country also in the future.”
“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,” he said. “We are all created in the image of God.”
Dr Tveit said the worldwide fellowship of the WCC offers its prayers and condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and are victims of today’s violence, to Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his fellow Norwegians.