First Funerals Of Attack Victims In Norway Have Been Held

On Friday Norway honored the memory of 76 people killed in its worst peacetime massacre. The Prime Minister urged the nation to unite around its core values of democracy and peace.

Hundreds of people gathered to commemorate young people who died in Breivik's attack. Photo: RTL Nieuws/Flickr

The Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg led a minute’s silence before hundreds of his party, the youth wing of which was targeted by Breivik.

“The bullets hit our young, but they also struck an entire nation,” he said of the gun rampage on Utoya island in which 68 of the victimswere killed.

“An attack against political engagement is an attack on our democracy. Today, it is exactly one week since Norway was struck by evil.

“Now, the time has come to commemorate those who died.”

18-year old Bano Rashid became one of the first Breivik’s victims. She came from the family of Kurdish immigrants from Iraq and was buried in a Muslim rite.

The ceremony was poignant for someone who spanned two countries, two cultures and two religions – it was the first ever in Norway – and maybe the world – to combine Christian and Muslim beliefs.

Her native Norwegian friends from her nearby college mixed with those from the Kurdish community, mixed with members of the Labour Party, for which she was a member were present at the ceremony. They all showed typical Scandinavian stoicism, holding it together through most of the ceremony.

The Imam Ghulam Abbas stood side by side with the Lutheran priest Anne Marit Tronvik, united they said in grief, hope and togetherness.

Vicar Tronvik said: “This country has been struck by an awful terrible tragedy. There are many people here today who share this enormous grief.

“This ceremony is very Bano. She was Norwegian, she was a Kurd. Two nations, two cultures and two religions and they all meet today.

“This will go down as a sign of hope for our future.”

Imam Abbas added: “We are sending out a clear message that we want to be together – to share everything and have an even better and brighter future for our children.”

Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Jahr Store also attended the ceremony.

“Bano sought safety in 1996 and ended up being caught up in the middle of the most violent tragedy in our history,” he said.

“But I think that seeing the imam and the priest together – unified and relaxed – is perhaps the most powerful message that can be sent out to counter this most heinous crime.”

“This will make us more tolerant, bring us together, make Norway a safer place for people to come too,” Bano’s friend Ayesha said after the ceremony with the tears in her eyes.

Not since World War II, when the country was occupied by the Nazis, has Norway suffered such losses from violence. That many of the victims were young has compounded the anguish.

Anders Behring Breivik, a self-described Christian crusader, has claimed responsibility for bombing the government headquarters in Oslo on July 22 and then carrying out a massacre

at a youth camp not far away on the island of Utoya.

On Friday, the police raised the death toll by one, bringing the total to 77. They said all the missing had been identified, though it was unclear if this was the final toll.

In a 1,500-page manifesto, Mr. Breivik wrote that the attacks were necessary to spark a war that would cleanse Europe of its Muslim immigrants, who he argued were destroying the continent’s Christian heritage and culture. Though most Europeans consider his methods abominable, his anti-immigrant ideas, while extreme, are in tune with a growing current of xenophobia in Europe.

Police have charged Breivik with terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison. However, it’s possible the charge will change during the investigation to crimes against humanity, which carries a 30-year prison term, Norway’s top prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch told The Associated Press.

“Such charges will be considered when the entire police investigation has been finalized,” he said. “It is an extensive investigation. We will charge Breivik for each individual killing.”

Prosecutors can also seek a special kind of sentence that would enable the court to keep Breivik in prison indefinitely. A formal indictment isn’t expected until next year, Busch said. [via The Telegraph, Huffpost and The New York Times]

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