Norway’s King Harald told citizens that freedom is stronger than fear Sunday, as the country concluded a monthlong mourning period with a candlelit memorial service to the 77 people killed by a right-wing extremist.
Addressing the gathering of 6,700 people in Oslo’s Spektrum arena, King Harald said he felt for each person in the country, but that he was certain Norway would surmount its pain.
“I firmly believe that we will uphold our ability to live freely and openly in our country,” he said.”
Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfoer opened the service with a heartfelt performance of a classic Norwegian song “My Little Country,” which has taken on special significance since the terror attacks.
Elsewhere in the city, flags flew at half-staff as people lay flowers and children blew soap bubbles outside the cathedral.
The ceremony in the arena, which also hosts the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, was broadcast live on national television and was attended by Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, government members, lawmakers and leading politicians and royals from neighbouring countries.
The ceremony was set to include performances by some of Norway’s top musical names, including 1980s pop group A-ha, soprano Sissel Kyrkjeboe, rap group Karpe Diem and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Online, people from around the world joined the commemoration of the victims by participating in a campaign to write Utoya “and shine a light for democracy” on social networking site Twitter. Each time someone mentioned the name of the island on Twitter, the website www.light4utoya.net added a light to a world map.
Anders Behring Breivik has admitted killing 77 people last month when he first detonated a truck bomb outside government offices in Oslo, and then went on a meticulously planned shooting spree at a youth camp on the island of Utoya, some 40 km away.
Mr. Breivik, 32, denies criminal guilt because he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway, claiming it was aimed at purging Europe of Muslims and punishing politicians who have embraced multiculturalism.
Mr. Breivik was arrested on Utoya 90 minutes after he began his deadly attack. Earlier this week, an Oslo court extended his isolation detention by another four weeks.
On Saturday, some 1,000 survivors and relatives traveled to Utoya, accompanied by police and medical staff, to face the painful memories of the scenes of the shootings. Their visit followed a similar one Friday by 500 relatives of the deceased.
One of the survivors, Stine Renate Haaheim, said her feelings ranged from emptiness and extreme grief to joy when she returned on Saturday to the island, used as a recreational centre by Norway’s ruling Labour Party.
On Monday, many Norwegian children go back school after their summer break, many to face the empty seats of the friends they lost in the tragedy.