Norway: The power of truth, love and nonviolence
While there really are no words of consolation adequate to the horror and brutality, the ignorance and hatred evidenced by last weekend’s murders in Norway of innocents and protagonists of a positive peace and vision for a better world, we still must find words.
Our first words are of deepest sympathy and condolence for those who lost personal friends and loved ones in the bombing and shootings. Our next words are those of outrage and lamentation for a world in which ignorance becomes hatred, and hatred violence leading to wrong-headedness and hard-heartedness so bold as to defy belief.
But then our words must become calls to reason and redemption and reconciliation, such as we are already hearing from young people who were spared by some miracle, and such as those which we inherit as our legacy from a long standing belief in the power of truth and love to resolve conflicts and answer fears.
We must turn our hearts and minds still more fully to reaching out across our many differences to our common dignity and integrity as individuals and fellow members of one family and one future. We must speak and work to bring it to its best place together, this world and all its people.
We are all broken by the killings of these Norwegian youth; we are all angered that such tragedy is possible; but now we offer our hearts and spirits and hands to the people of Norway, and Europe, and the East and West, the South and North who would pursue peace and justice together. And the most immediate embrace must be by those not of Islam with our Muslim brothers and sisters to heal the wounds this violence inflicts on all of us.
Earlier this week, more than 150,000 people (in a nation of just 5 million) gathered in Oslo for a memorial Rose March.
“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy,” said Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Trond Gunnar Rasmussen, chairperson of the Fellowship of Reconciliation-Norway, has written about the violence:
“In my head, we don’t have the necessary common understanding of how to live together peacefully. This has been one of my motivations to continue to cultivate a Culture of Peace. Now, the FOR of Norway feels really challenged to go on with our two prioritised projects; to promote the necessity of a Culture of Peace and to celebrate the Martin Luther King Day.
“As we wait for the names of the victims of these monstrous acts to be publicised, the sky is weeping. Our country is so small that the chance some families in grief are known to us, is fairly high. The leader of the populist right party said: all we can do now is to go around hugging and embracing each other. This demonstrates just how united we feel right now. I hope this unique atmosphere can give some consolation to the many who have lost their dear ones.
“More than symbolic events, our societies need to seek a common understanding of the importance of nonviolence and a culture of peace. This must be our enlightenment in this time of darkness.”
Juliet Bernstein, the (98-years-young!) member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation chapter in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wrote:
“It was with much shock and sorrow that I heard of the tragedy in Norway, a country that I have always thought of as being nonviolent and peaceful. I was heartened to read of statements from various people of Norway, especially by a minister who said, ‘Hate cannot triumph over love’ and by the Norwegian consul in Boston that ‘…it’s a very strong feeling in Norway that we’re not going to let this change the way we live our lives.’
“My sincerest sympathy goes to all Norwegians and particularly to those who have lost members of their family. It is good to know that FOR-Norway will continue The Culture of Peace and the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. day.”
The International Fellowship of Reconciliation has called for a recommitment to active nonviolence:
“In the longer run, we shall not remain silent when it comes to whatever speech or action denigrates people of other faiths, other beliefs or other views. It is that culture of denigration that nourishes the ground on which hateful violence grows.
“That is why IFOR once again reiterates the importance and priority of a commitment to nonviolence. It is not disagreements and controversy that are putting society at risk, but lack of respect and of active nonviolence. That’s why we must recommit ourselves to these values and promote them in our social environment.”
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, meanwhile, noted the assumptions by some in the immediate aftermath of the attacks that they had been perpetrated by Muslims. They asked us — and in particular, journalists — to guard against these prejudices that form the basis for mistrust.
“To the Families of Norway, the families of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows send deepest sympathy. We join with people the world over who intimately feel the pain of the inestimable losses thrust upon you by the force of killing hatred. That one person, or three or five, would choose the path of killing his brothers and sisters, is the terrible story of the ages. We understand too well the depth of the consequences of such actions, knowing as we do that violence only begets violence.
“We are bound most deeply with you now and forever in our shared suffering. We offer hope to you, for we have also learned of the great compassion that exists in this world. Our healing has been aided by choosing to turn our grief into actions for peace. In doing so, we have found solace from survivors the world over (among them Rwanda and Sudan, South Africa and Columbia, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Madrid and Beslan Russia, Israel and Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq) who share our mission. Perpetrators of terrorism, alas, exist in all corners of the world.
“Even in our sorrow, we must beware of those whose unwarranted assumptions bring increase fear and even hatred. Those whose initial reaction to the Oslo terrorist attack assumed it to be perpetrated by Muslims do great harm to the search for justice and peace.
“A prejudicial perspective not only engenders hatred and mistrust; it is also divisive and inflames bigotry, which should have no place in any civilized society. Peaceful Tomorrows knows that there are journalists of integrity who regard their mission to seek the truth as sacred, and urge all media throughout the world to aspire to that standard.”
For those who wish to send messages to our brothers and sisters in Norway, you may do so through FOR-USA by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, from which we will pass the messages on to FOR-Norway.