Monday, 25 July 2011

With God on his side

After the initial fears for family and friends in Norway were dispelled, the same thought occurred to me as to so many others: how could the mass slaughter occur in such a civilised country? Norway was the nation that brokered international peace negotiations and is always among the first to provide peacekeeping troops.

As the profile of the perpetrator was built up by the news media, a phrase came to the fore: "Christian fundamentalist". But as if to prove that fundamentalism was as alien to Christianity as "militant" Islam is to the general population of Muslims, the earliest messages I saw on Facebook were from friends who are committed Christians, praying for the victims and their families.

There was, however, a Norwegian precedent. "The dutiful eldest son of a scholarly country parson, with a close sense of family and place", to quote from this essay,  in the 1920s "assisted in relief work in Russia under the famous Arctic explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen and later for the League of Nations" (Encyclopaedia Britannica). He believed passionately in Christianity informed by science as a bulwark against international communism. His name was Vidkun Quisling. He was later responsible for sending nearly a thousand Jews from Norway to die in the camps in Nazi-controlled Europe.

We only have the judge's summary of what Anders Breivik told the court today. Probably wisely, Breivik was denied a public hearing in which to launch a justification of his actions. However, he seems to have railed against Muslims and Marxists, eerily reminiscent of the Nazis' equation of communism with international Jewry, something to which Quisling clearly subscribed.

The Utoya atrocity is not going to be forgotten, but it was reassuring to hear a Norwegian government spokesman say today that, although security will have to be improved, it is not going to turn Norway into a closed society.

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