Saturday, July 24, 2021

Church bells ring in Norway on 10th anniversary of Utøya attack

Floral tributes lay outside Oslo Cathedral on Thursday.
The flowers have become a symbol of the country's response to the attack, when roses were piled outside Oslo Cathedral in the days after the mass killing. 

Church bells rang for five minutes across Norway on 22 July, marking the 10th anniversary of the twin attacks that killed 77 Norwegians and left hundreds of others scarred for life “both in body and soul,” as Oslo Bishop Kari Veiteberg put it at the memorial service in the Oslo Cathedral. Memorial services were held, from those in individual homes to churches to a service in the Oslo Cathedral.  

I remember being in Tanzania for the DRAE Assembly, followed by the DIAKONIA Executive Committee meeting. As the Executive were gathered in the small meeting room, news came through of the horrific attack and the tragic loss of life. I remember so well how shocked Rev Marianne Uri Øverland (DRAE) was as this news came through from her home country. She, along with the people in Norway, still bear the pain and sorrow of the attack. Marianne was part of the service in the Oslo Cathedral. 

At the memorial service attended by survivors and relatives of the victims, political leaders and Norway's Royal family, the Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: "It hurts to think back to that dark day in July ten years ago. Today, we mourn together. Today, we remember the 77 that never came home". 

The memorial was held in central Oslo outside what was once the prime minister's office. People also expressed their sorrow by leaving red roses at cathedral and in public places. 

Eight of the victims died when a car bomb was detonated outside a tower block housing the offices of then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Less than two hours later, a lone gunman attacked a summer camp organized by the ruling Norwegian Labour Party, killing 69 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Norwegian Bishop Erik Varden spoke of the "grief and perplexity" of Norwegians. The attack was the deadliest violence in the country since the Second World War. Ten years, on, the nation is still in grief, and still struggles to understand how something as brutal as that act could happen in a nation that is peaceful, and that prides itself on being peaceful. So were united in grief and perplexity and also in indignation that such a thing should have happened here.”

Some parents of the victims reflected on how the country has coped since the massacre, saying that “time does not heal all wounds." 

“What would those who were so brutally and unfairly killed think of us now 10 years later? I think they would be sad to know that there still are survivors and bereaved with great needs,” said Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland, whose daughter, Synne, was killed by Breivik. Roeyneland runs the national support group for victims and families. "I think they would be disappointed in seeing the public debate in many ways has moved in the wrong direction. I also think they would be proud of us. Proud of how we reacted in the days after the terrorist attack and how our state under the rule of law firmly stood its ground in the face of brutality.”

Astrid Hoem, a survivor from Utoya who leads the AUF, the youth wing of the center-left Labor Party, said, “We have not stopped the hatred,” and urged Norway to face up to the racism in the country. “It is so brutal that it can be difficult to fathom. But it’s our responsibility to do so. Because 10 years on, we must speak the truth. We haven’t stopped the hatred. Far-right extremism is still alive. The terrorist was one of us.”

The victims came from all parts of the country and memorial services were also held across Norway, with people also laying down flowers in other cities.

The words of Shirley Erena Murray's song serve as a prayer for the people of Norway: 

SONG: When Human Voices Cannot Sing
When human voices cannot sing
and human hearts are breaking,
we bring our grief to you, O God
who knows our inner aching.

Set free our spirits from all fear - 
the cloud of dark unknowing,
and let the light, the Christ-light show
the pathway of our going.
(Words: Shirley Murray, (*v 3&4 omitted); tune: St Columba

Interesting academic research here - a critical discourse analysis of the annual memorial speeches and coverage from 2012 to 2014 which examines how visions of national identity are produced in and through the remembrance of the terrorist attacks. 

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