January 6, 2012 10:57 pm

Norway’s resilience

The massacre of 77 citizens has strengthened rather than broken the country’s system of democracy

I arrived back home in Oslo the day after the bombing in the centre and the massacre on Utøya island in July 2011. The city was heavy with mourning. The whole country was in shock. Norway is such a small country, almost everyone knew someone who had been affected. But after only a few days I was stunned to see the healing process. Instead of becoming insular and closed, the politicians and the citizens of Norway became more welcoming, more inclusive. They insisted this would not break their system of democracy, but make it stronger. They insisted it would not rip our society apart with questions of race, but draw it together and everyone embraced multiculturalism. Three days after the tragedy, hundreds of thousands of people gathered not to condemn a killer but to embrace the future. Each held a rose and their family’s hands as they walked through the streets: Norwegians, Somalis, Pakistanis, Afghanis … all celebrating the need for togetherness. Six months later, Utøya is still closed but lies calm and quiet waiting for the spring. The memorial to the people who died carries a dedication based on a tweet sent by one of the Labour youth campers in the hours after the attacks: “If one man can feel so much hate, imagine how much love we can all feel together.” We could all learn from the way the Norwegians reacted to this tragedy.

Marcus Bleasdale is a British photojournalist currently working on human rights issues across Africa and Asia. He is a member of VII Photo agency. www.marcusbleasdale.com

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