I was asked to write an article about the tragic events in Norway for Youthkiwaaz.com, India´s largest online platform that enables youth to express themselves on critical issues. I would like to thank them for enlightening important events worldwide, and for sharing the message from the Norwegians after the attack. Hate has never solved conflicts, but open dialogue and love will never lose its power!
The Survivors´ Message: Love and Solidarity Is Our Answer
On Friday 22 July, Norway experienced the worst peacetime massacre in the modern history of our country. A massive bomb in the capital Oslo devastated governmental buildings. Then a shooting attack on the island Utøya with the governing Labour Party´s annual youth camp.
In the days since the attack, the strength, unity and clear message from the survivors leaves no trace for doubt: when disaster strikes, the importance of unity is vital.
The horrific stories after the sensless act of terror were numerous and shocking. Realizing the depth of the tragedy, it was difficult to grasp the comprehension. 76 people massacred. In Norway. A country that has been blessed with peace and political stability for the past seventy years. We have never experienced a terrorist attack.
The nightmare is like taken from the worst imaginable horror movie, with a plot too evil to see daylight. And yet this was the reality some days ago.
Since the youth at the summer camp were gathered from all over Norway, almost everybody knows someone directly or indirectly involved in the disaster. Having friends, family or acquaintances fighting for their lives in a nightmare brings the horror so close. Youth from eleven years old were shot by a desperate gunman seeking attention to his twisted perception of reality.
The grieving process has been a national event, bringing people together to an extent I have never witnessed. The warmth, support and unity shown by each and every person is overwhelming. Flowers, candles and cards in memory of the victims overflow the city centres of every town in Norway. Rose parades were arranged all over the country to demonstrate how we meet such a hateful attack.
I admire how our governmental leaders, politicians and royal family have met the tragedy. Our Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has united the nation through his leadership, setting an example by saying «we are devasteted, but will not falter. With lanterns and roses we send the world a message. We will not let the fear destroy us or our values!». He held a speech right after the incident saying that terror and evil will be met with openness and democracy, emphasizing the importance of international solidarity. The heartbreaking but dignified grief is combined with a crystal clear message: our fight for democracy and humanity will continue with reinforced strength both nationally and internationally. Also, that the solution of conflicts lies in dialogue between people, religions and ideologies, not violence and hate.
The past days has left 4,9 million Norwegians in united perception: we will not let the grief destroy the pillars of our society. On the contrary, we will fight even harder for the good values we believe in.
A German newspaper described the situation like this: «Even in their deepest sorrow the Norwegians don't get hysterical. They resist the hate. It is amazing to see how politicians and the whole country reacts. They are sad to the deepest thread of their souls. They cry in dignity. But nobody swears to take revenge. Instead they want even more humanity and democracy. That is one of the most remarkable strengths of that little country»
I think one of the strongest impressions after the disaster is the way surviving youth tackled the situation. Young leaders and participants have supported each other, held moving speeches and interviews. Instead of lingering in hate, they have encouraged everyone to unite and focus on friendship, continue fighting for democracy and an open, humane society. The firm belief in humanitarian values combined with the strong leadership of our heads of state leaves no trace for doubt. The event is met with deep sorrow, but unwavering unity and increased efforts for human rights.
The message is that we cannot defeat hate with hate. As one 23 year-old survivor said: «I will not allow myself to sink to his level. Hate took the life of my best friends. With love and uncompromising solidarity we will defeat the ideologies of hate».
To protest against the terrorism and violence, the message from the survivors is also clear: use your right to vote. By doing so, we can use our chance to strengthen democracy. Open dialogue, human relations and human rights will increase the stability and understanding between nations and people.
The most powerful response
Evil exists in the world. When struck by tragic events, it is important to approach the grief with constructive response. One of the most powerful ways to reply is expressing love and continue fighting for the values we cherish by showing empathy, tolerance, unity, and respect for our fellow human beings. It´s vital to stand together in the grief, unite and comfort each other instead of tearing people further apart. Hate has never solved conflicts. As a sixteen-year old surviving girl from Utøya so beautifully expressed it: «if one man can show so much hate; think about all the love we can show together».
You can read the full article at Youthkiawaaz.com here.