IRLA leader: "We Pray for Healing in Norway"

Secretary General urges caution in use of "Christian fundamentalist" label 

Much is still unknown about two brutal attacks in Norway on July 22 that devastated the nation and shocked the international community. “These horrific acts of violence have shattered the lives of so many people, and inflicted terrible suffering on individual families and on the people of Norway,” says Dr. John Graz, Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association. “On behalf of the IRLA, I want to express my deepest condolences. The terrible irony is that Norway is such a peace-loving, peace-promoting nation, home to the Nobel Peace Prize. We join with those around the world who are praying for all those who are grieving.”

Media reports that these acts may have been motivated by so-called right-wing Christian fundamentalism are “profoundly disturbing,” adds Dr. Graz. “Such acts are utterly alien to Christian teachings and values. 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.’”

Dr. Graz urges caution, also, in the use of the term “fundamentalist” to describe the individual who is alleged to have carried out the attacks. “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 suggests that the term “extremist” is a better description of the type of ideology and behavior that falls far outside the norms of a religious community.

According to Dr. Graz, people of faith everywhere—whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, or any other—should not allow distorted understandings of religion to drive a wedge of suspicion between them. “Instead, we must re-double our efforts to promote understanding and respect between people of different cultures and faiths,” he says.

“We must make this commitment in memory of those who lost their lives in these attacks, and we must do this for their loved ones who have been left behind to mourn. We can do nothing less.”