Churches leader calls Norway rampage 'blasphemous'

AP News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2011 12:40 PM
Churches leader calls Norway rampage 'blasphemous'

The head of the world's largest ecumenical group accused Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik of blasphemy Monday for citing Christianity as a justification in his murderous attack on government buildings and a youth camp that left dozens dead.

In an online manifesto published shortly before Friday's attack, Breivik styled himself a Christian conservative fighting against Marxist conspiracies and the perceived Muslim colonization of Europe.

"It's important to say to all Muslims wherever they are, in Europe or elsewhere in the world, that these actions in no way can express what is our Christian faith and our Christian values," Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit told The Associated Press. "It is blasphemous to make that kind of connection."

Tveit, who is himself Norwegian and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, said the Nordic country was still in shock over what had happened, and many of his countrymen were seeking churches for support and answers.

"The churches have been open. Pastor and deacons have been available for conversations," he said.

Tveit, a pastor in Norway's Lutheran Church, said religious leaders had noticed an increase in extremist ideologies being discussed on the Web.

But the bomb attack in the capital Oslo and the shooting at a Socialist youth camp on Utoya island were a wake-up call for churches that they need to prevent their faith being used as justification for violence, he said in a telephone interview from Norway.

"We as Christians need to be aware of this, how our faith and our religion can be abused," he said. "This event shows how important it is that we continue this work more than ever."

Tveit has headed the Geneva-based WCC since 2010. The organization represents 349 Protestant and Orthodox churches with some 560 million members worldwide.