Norwegian Horror

Just before shabbat on Friday afternoon I received an email from a colleague, asking me to mention victims of a bomb in Oslo during our service that evening. We didn't know very much, but what I gleaned online before heading down to the sanctuary was that 15 were injured and 2 dead. By the close of Shabbat, when I checked the news again, the reports were of much higher numbers, and radio 4 was describing the fact that they expected a much more 'rigorous' debate on multiculturalism in Norway as a result of the events in Oslo, and a sadness that a nation so deeply engaged in peace making (notably the Oslo accords) was attacked in such away.
It now seems the perpetrator was Anders Breivik, described by Norwegian media and cited on Huffington Post as a blond, blue-eyed Norwegian man. Not only did he detonate an enormous fertiliser bomb but attacked a Labour children's summer camp, firing shots at children who were forced into the water to swim for safety. The death toll now stands at 98 and is expected to rise. A deep feeling of shock pervades.

The media reports were very quick to make certain assumptions. It is inappropriate to politicise such tragedies, though very quickly discussions turned to political debate multiculturalism - assuming that these atrocities were committed by an 'outsider', someone who is 'other'. There have, of course, been many twitter comments, but some included the question from Nitin Sawhney; why is no one describing Breivik as a terrorist (on Saturday night), and thechurchmouse on Sunday night who wondered why he was being called a Christian, fundamentalist or otherwise. We are always searching for ways to explain and categorise, and often this involves assumptions, reveals our prejudices, and leaves us putting others into ill-fitting boxes.

I've spent some of this evening re-writing my short piece for Pause for Thought tomorrow morning to incorporate this weekends news, though it is always hard to find the words. Ultimately, as someone not directly affected, the sadness is that the world is still imperfect and these horrors are still committed by us against each other. All those killed had the potential to do so much and be so much, and that potential is now lost to the world. We must all do more. Meanwhile my thoughts and prayers are with those mourning their loved ones, all over the world, but particularly in Norway, as a result of in/human violence.


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