Norway is in deep mourning. Norwegians are mourning. It is just a month since the terror attack that took place in Oslo and the island of Utøya. At least 77 innocent people were killed by a mass murder and left the country in shock. I was in Kenya then and I did follow the news on broadcast media and read various versions concerning the same.
On landing in Norway, I sensed the somber mood with everyone talking about the attack and what it meant to them. “It was such a shock to see this peaceful country crumbling down within an act of a second,” said a sad Liv. The terrorist attack has been reported to be the most deadly in post-war Norwegian history and has been termed as a act of utmost hate by a ‘crazy’ man, Anders Behring Breivik. On his 1,500-page manifesto that was posted on the Internet only hours before the attack, he claims that this killer act was part of a campaign to purge Muslim influence from Norway and defend “Western civilization.”
However, Breivik confessed that the acts were evil the admitted responsibility. Through his lawyer Geir Lippestad it was reported, “he feels that it was cruel to have to carry out these acts but that, in his head, it was necessary.” It is with such shocking revelations that Norwegians have continued to openly talk about the attack so as to channel a way forward. Even those that did not know anyone who lost their beloved ones, they have taken this as a way to bring them together.
While in Kenya, I also followed a live blog which had like minute updates on the same and I remember reading this: “Oslo eerily quiet this morning. Sense of disbelief palpable. Soldiers patrolling streets as large chunk of city centre remains cordoned off. Church services throughout Norway reported crammed as a country mourns a tragedy it could never have predicted.”
One month down the line, Norwegians are still in disbelief. This week on Wednesday evening, at a local restaurant in Kristiansand, my colleague Annet and I had a pizza date with our Norwegian friend and mother Inger Gupta. She reflected on the evil attack and her words of wisdom almost brought me to tears.
“The world is full of rage and hate. As individuals we cannot bear this burden, it is too heavy for any of us. However, killing young people who have a bright future should have never been a thought that crossed the minds of any of us. I was very depressed after the attack and wondered, why didn’t he ask any of us to volunteer to help him out? If he really wanted to kill someone so as to deal with his hate, I was ready and I am still ready to submit myself. I have written a poem asking him to shoot me instead. I have lived my life, I am an old woman now, I would have surrendered just to protect the lives of the many youths who died during the attack.” She said with a lot of sorrow then she took a long silence. It surely takes an insight to weep with those who are weeping.
Many Norwegians are reflecting about it, talking about the need for national and international solidarity when such disasters hit a nation. A week ago at the Youth Camp in Oslo in her speech, the State Secretary Kirsti Bergstø said, “In September this year a Municipal and County Council election will be carried out in Norway. In cities and small towns in the country thousands of people have gathered in the streets and squares, demonstrating that we are together as a nation. The solidarity between the immigrant population and the ethnic Norwegians seems to be stronger than before. A young girl who escaped from the terrorist at the summer camp said: “If one man can cause so much evil, imagine how much love all of us can create together.” The country is in deep mourning due to these terrible actions. But at the same time, we have witnessed a people who have been brought together.”
Immigrants in Norway
The same words have been shared by the immigrants living in Norway. “Patience, after it happened, we crossed our fingers praying that the killer would not be a foreigner. We don’t even want to imagine how it would have been for some of us. It is an act that has changed Norwegians perceptions towards immigrants and we only hope it will last. Evilness, knows no race, it is unfortunate some Norwegians think foreigners are born criminals,” said a Ugandan friend in Oslo.
“It was a huge surprise on realizing that it was a Norwegian and a Christian for that matter. God forbid should it have been a foreigner. That would have literally divided this country into two.” Said Bjørn a Norwegian friend.
“After the attack members of the government and political leaders have expressed their strong will to defend openness and democracy in our society. We shall not submit to terrorist actions. We shall have peaceful and open political discussions. Young people shall participate actively in society. Fear must never win.” Said Kirsti Bergstø.
Norwegians are going for elections in about two weeks time, it is important to mention that I am touched by the level of political maturity they have displayed. The same can be used as an example for other countries to follow. While I am so proud of the “Kenyans for Kenya” famine initiative to save millions of citizens from hunger in the Northern parts of Kenya, I am so proud of the solidarity that Norwegians have shown in dealing with the 22 July 2011 terror attack.
“ It takes a great people to build a great nation”.