Since last Friday’s blast and shootings:
Over 250,000 residents of Oslo and thousands more up and down Norway (population 4.9 million) gathered on Monday evening to share their grief and, in the words of Crown Prince Haakon, “We have chosen to meet hatred with unity.” In many smaller communities up to half the population participated personally in the summer evening Rosetog (rose train) to commemorate those killed on Friday. In Lillesand more than 4000 of the city’s 9800 residents turned up with flowers and torches.
At Oslo city hall Labour Party youth leader Eskil Pedersen, a survivor of the attack, spoke about the youth of Utøya, what they fought for and believed in and the strength of standing together. According to NRK, Pedersen said that together they would make Norway and the world a better place. They stood together for justice, for solidarity, for equality and against racism. “He tried to take this from us, but we have never been more together than we are today… He took some of our most beautiful roses, but he can not stop the spring,” ended Pedersen.
During a memorial mass at Oslo Cathedral Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “Amidst all this tragedy, I am proud to live in a country that has managed to hold its head up high at a critical time. I have been impressed by the dignity, compassion and resolve I have met. We are a small country, but a proud people. We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values. Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity. But never naivete.”
The Crown Prince, the Lutheran Bishop of Oslo, the Mayor of Oslo, two government ministers, and many others packed a memorial service at the World Islamic Mission, a mosque directly across the street from the central Oslo jail where the self-confessed mass murderer is being held. The Muslim population of Norway is estimated at 120-170 thousand. According to NRK those attending were welcomed by Imam Najeeb Naz saying, “Today, a whole people, across all the lines of a modern society –geography, generation, politics, religion — come together. We do not have easy answers, but we can draw strength from one another.”
Three survivors of the Utøya shootings participated in a web-based public Q&A hosted by the VG newspaper. One of the text questions asked, “What do you think should be done with Anders (the gunman)?” Daniel Braathen (above right) answered, “I do not support him being put to death, or tortured, or something; only that he will be put away for always. I have little desire to talk with him although he almost took my life.” All three indicated a desire to return to Utøya. Gard Strand (above left) texted, “I feel it is important to get out to the island again to overcome fear.” The Norwegian Labour Party has insisted that Utoya will be reopened as a site for youth conferences.
Another survivor of the mass murder on Utøya spoke at the funeral of her mother, shot while her daughter was elsewhere on the island. According to the VG newspaper, Helene Bosei Olsen said, “In this situation it is very easy to feel hatred for the terrorist who in those two long hours destroyed so many lives. My wish is that instead of hating the terrorist, I want you to show love to those you love, and provide warmth and good thoughts to the families of those who died.”
The Norwegian government announced the establishment of an independent commission to investigate all facets of July 22. Every party represented in the Norwegian parliament was present for the announcement, including the conservative and generally anti-immigrant Progress Party. With 41 of 169 seats in the current parliament the Progress Party or FrP is the second-largest behind the Labour Party’s 64 seats.
Siv Jensen, head of the Progress Party, said, “The Progress Party is embarrassed, disgusted and truly sad that the accused terrorist was once a member of the party… His actions and beliefs are totally contrary to our policies, beliefs and value-system. The Progress Party is a classical liberal party, which cherishes democracy and humanitarian values. We strongly oppose all messages and acts of hatred, violence, bigotry and close-mindedness. The terrorist attacks were not only directed against the government and the Labour Party, but against Norwegian core values and democracy. All political parties together agree that such terrible crimes must be met with even more democracy and openness.” (See related NYT story: Shift in Europe seen in debate on immigrants)
Norwegian private donations for Somali hunger and drought relief have soared over the last week. The Norwegian Red Cross started a fundraising campaign on July 15. By July 22 only 100,000 krone ($18,500) had been collected. Between the blasts on Friday and the end of the day on Saturday 1 million krone had been collected. An additional 2 million krone has been donated in the days since.
Norwegian police have — gradually and carefully — released the names, ages, and places of residence for the seventy-six killed on July 22. The VG newspaper is attempting to provide photographs of each of those killed.
While Anders Behring Breivik has confessed to the bombing and shooting, he has entered a legal plea of not guilty. The Norwegian Attorney-General does not expect the actual trial to begin until early 2012.
As I write this at 0730 Eastern Time on Friday, many memorials are underway in Norway. The crowds are stupendous for such a small nation. In each one there is a recurring refrain of coming together in sorrow and working together in hope. Sorrow grounds us. Hope inspires us. Rooted in sorrow and reaching in hope can be a very productive place.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister encouraged his neighbors, “I have a simple request to make of you. Get involved. Care. Join an organisation. Take part in debates. Use your vote. Free elections are the jewel in the crown of democracy. By taking part, you are saying a resounding yes to democracy.”