OSLO, Norway — In the wake of Norway’s deadly bombing and shooting rampage, residents of Oslo said they would stand against allowing the tragedy to alter their country’s culture of openness and tolerance.
The twin terror attacks that destroyed government offices and killed dozens at the ruling Labor Party’s youth camp have prompted a period of soul searching that has led some to fear sweeping changes may come to Norwegian politics and security.
During a packed memorial service for the family and friends of the victims on Sunday, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg reached out to those in mourning after the powerful car bomb and gunman killed 93 in total.
Mr. Stoltenberg admitted Friday’s twin attacks have rocked the country but stressed the Norway would not stray from its beliefs.
“We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values,” he told the crowd of mourners, royalty, and other dignitaries gathered at the Oslo Cathedral. “Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity. But never naivete.”
Hundreds flocked to the church to pay their respects or watch the memorial service unfold. A line of people trying to enter the church stretched down the block forcing organizers to turn away the overflowing crowd. Those that couldn’t enter were allowed to visit an impromptu monument of flowers, candles, and Norwegian flags that has cropped up in the churchyard.
“I don’t think any one had any fear that something like this would happen,” said Trygve Kjolseth standing in the throng of onlookers outside the church.
The Norwegian man charged with attacks – 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik – is said to have acted alone and appears to have planned the attacks for some time.
Earlier today, police raided the former site of a used car dealership on the outskirts of Oslo in connection with their investigation. Police said the search did not yield any new explosives or more suspects.
Geir Lippestad, Mr. Breivik’s lawyer, said his client has “admitted his guilt to the actual facts” of the case and detailed his motive. Mr. Lippestad declined to elaborate. “He said quite a bit on that but I don’t wish to comment further on that now,” he told reporters. Breivik was expected to appear in court Monday.
More details, however, have surfaced concerning Breivik’s beliefs, which trend toward the extreme right and xenophobic end of the political spectrum. A 1,500-page manifesto, posted online hours before the attacks under the pseudonym Andrew Berwick, decries the rise of political correctness, “cultural Marxism,” Islam, feminism and multiculturalism in Europe.
A 12-minute video was also posted online featuring images of crusaders and alarms against the rise of Islam. One of its warnings reads, “We believe that facilitating the growth of competing cultures within a nation will only result in the weakening of the nation through cultural/religious/ethnic conflict.”
A changed Norway
Though people long for life in Norway to remain the same, many admit the way politicians and police conduct business will probably be altered by the attacks. Living in a small nation where violent crime is rare, Norwegians are accustomed to feeling safe anywhere and seeing high-ranking officials strolling alone through the streets.
“We want to be very normal these days,” says Nils Seljebo of Oslo. He recalls seeing the education minister just a week before the attacks passing through the city center. He said that sight would probably become rare. “She was just walking alone,” he says. “I think that will change.”
One high-school student attending the memorial ceremony says both attacks, particularly the shooting spree, would forever mark his generation.
“I’ve never seen my friend like this,” says Simen Viken Grini about a friend who survived the massacre on the island of Utoya.
He says he took solace in the prime minister’s words urging people to look forward and stay strong. “I hope things will stay close to the same. We have an open society,” he says, though acknowledging “some changes have to be made.”