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Ole Christian Mælen Kvarme

Lutheran Bishop, Norway

    Norway is a country with one of the smaller populations in Europe. On July 22 a terrorist bomb shattered government buildings in Oslo and a massacre took place on an island nearby.  77 were killed and many more wounded. In our small population we all suffered the loss or the pain of a relative, a colleague or a friend.

    The majority of those killed were young people at a Labor Party youth camp on the island near Oslo. One of them was my good friend: a brilliant young man, a future leader in our church and political life. The terrorist attack shattered our future.

    If there were any naïveté in our peaceful society, it was also shattered. A blond Norwegian had attacked our open society, and his attack was particularly aimed at the presence of Muslims in our midst. How is it

possible to respond to such extremism and evil, to such attitudes and the rhetoric of hatred?

    In the midst of our mourning and anger, young people gave directions for our future. In our Cathedral I met several who survived the massacre, and I was touched by their determination: What we now need is not less openness, but more living together and to build trust through dialogue. A young woman said: “If one person can cause so much evil, think how much love we can create together.”

    People responded likewise. They took to the streets and adorned our squares with flowers and candles. Churches, mosques and synagogues were packed by people praying. In the Cathedral we read the beatitudes of Jesus: “Blessed are those who mourn, and those who hunger for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful and the peacemakers.” And we marched the streets, Christians and Muslims hand in hand, to practice a new-found sense of togetherness.

    Now the flowers have faded. Now we have to live with the pain and work on our shattered illusions. But the spirit of young people has given us hope. It is not a naïve hope, but a humble and Gospel-like commitment for the difficult road ahead: not hatred, but love and dignity for every human being. We are bound to live together and to do so in respect, dialogue and charity.