Norway — what next?
Everyone held their breath as news of the horrific extent of the killings in Norway emerged on 22 July 2011. The first news to break about the outrage concerned a powerful bomb in central Oslo. What was going on in Norway, of all places?
Some wept while others prayed, as the number of dead rose. The media labelled it as the day when Norway lost its innocence — an event to be spoken of for years to come. Then, the questions. What provoked Anders Behring Breivik to such atrocities? Who is he? Why Norway?
Breivik adhered to an extreme, Islamophobic, right-wing agenda. According to reports, he was once in a right-wing party in Norway, but left it as they were not in sync with how he saw the world. Instead of attacking Muslims directly, he aimed his ire against political parties espousing liberal ideas about immigration.
So he killed 69 on Utoya Island as part of a ‘crusade’ against multiculturalism and the ‘Muslim invasion’ of Europe, having been responsible for the deaths resulting from the massive car bomb in Oslo’s city centre.
Norway, like other countries in Europe, has welcomed Muslims to its shores. But, the influence of Islam has been checked there. When some Muslims wanted to build a mosque, financed by Saudi Arabia to the tune of £2 million, the Norwegian government denied permission. They could not accept such a large gift from Saudi Arabia without reciprocity.
Norway’s Muslims initially thought that the bomb was planted by Muslim extremists. As the truth unfolded, they have been as astonished as everyone else about Breivik’s actions.
Some Muslims in Norway had already been feeling uneasy, according to reports. As some Norwegians speak out about immigration, Muslims who have entered from Somalia and elsewhere feel the pressure. There is a concern about immigration in other parts of Europe as well, partly powered by unemployment.
Muslims are different and not shy about promoting their religion. So how should we respond as Christians?
God has brought many Muslims into Europe, whether by people-smuggling, legal immigration or marriage. Christians can make a real difference in the Muslim world by simply sharing how they can know assurance of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Christians are reaching out to Muslims in open-handed friendship, and are also finding Muslims open to friendship. May we learn to respond with love and welcome, seeing Muslims as among the people for whom Christ died.
There is helpful reading on www.answering-islam.org and in these books (all available from Arab World Ministries): Friendship first — ordinary Christians discussing good news with ordinary Muslims, Steve Bell (Friendship First Publications); Woman to woman —sharing Jesus with a Muslim friend, Joy Loewen (Chosen); and Your questions answered — a reply to Muslim friends, E. M. Hicham (EP Books).