Friday, July 22, 2011

Norway, the Peace Nation

This popular poster/picture hangs in Ingun's school in Bergen

As a traveler, a student, and a person, today has been one of the more trying days of anytime I have been abroad. As I said on my Facebook page earlier, a quiet, rainy day in Oslo took a turn in a very different direction this afternoon. First, my Augie colleague Michael Seeley and I were made aware that Augie's Associate Dean of Students of 21 years, Tracy Riddle, passed away. She was a friend to everyone in the Augie community; her presence will be greatly missed. I remember meeting with her on the day after finals this spring and she was so excited about projects for the next academic year. The remembrances of Tracy that quickly appeared on Facebook affirmed the community that Augie is and Tracy's impact on it.

Next, we saw a short news clip online about an explosion in downtown Oslo. We all heard a loud noise a little while before, but never imagined the destruction created and sense of security that was penetrated in that moment. The local newspaper, Aftenposten, shared a few images with a brief report in Norwegian. Soon, the BBC was carrying video and live updates. Two of the American students I am with were downtown at the time and felt the windows shake in the office they were in. Those two were able to get back to the University Campus (a 5 minute metro ride) safely. As of now, we do not know of any ISS students who were at the scene or injured in any way.

I suppose it is the natural reaction of any people or country under attack to ask themselves: why us? Many people around the globe, including Norwegians, are especially asking, why Norway? The small, Scandinavian kingdom has not seen a bomb go off in its capitol city since the Nazi occupation during World War II. Norway is a world leader in peace and humanitarian efforts. Why Norway?

It doesn't do any good to speculate "why" this happened as enough people are already doing that and more news is developing at present. What I do know and can speak to is the reaction felt in Norway. Norway is known as peace nation and is not used to being the subject of attack. Few people here or abroad could have predicted the day would come when we would see the headline "Terrorism in Norway" as one website put it.

Shortly after the senseless attack downtown, a gunman dressed as a police officer opened fire at a youth camp about 30 miles west of Oslo. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose office was targeted earlier today, was scheduled to visit the camp tomorrow. They now suspect that the gunman claimed the lives of several people at the Labor Party rally on the island.

One of my Norwegian friends shared the following message on his Facebook page: This is a time for unity and togetherness, not hatred and fear! Keep a cool head, and a warm heart. Please keep the people of Norway in your thoughts.

So where does this leave peace? I'll conclude with this passage, one of Tracy's favorite, that Augie's Dean Dr. Jim Bies shared with students in an email today:
"For I know the plan I have for you, says the Lord . . . plans to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

On a lighter note, I'll be white-water rafting in Jotunheimen (The Home of the Giants), north of Oslo, for the weekend. BBC is your best bet to get the real story out of Oslo. More when I return on Monday.

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