Norway two years on: solidarity for all the years to come


Much of what we have to say on the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Oslo and Utøya is fundamentally unaltered from what we wrote on the first anniversary of the attacks a year ago; if this bears any significance, it is in the fact that we do not see how we could possibly dilute a message of solidarity to all those bereaved and traumatised after such a wrenching assault and attack upon humanity (and idealism) itself.

The twenty-four months since the attacks have given photographers and print journalists the opportunity to present images and accounts from the survivors of the attacks to the wider world on a comprehensive scale. For those of across the world affected by what happened on that summer day, it seems to us imperative that any ongoing factual revelations go hand in hand with heightened empathy.

As the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Egypt underline, individual brutality, group brutality, armed conflict and sectarian strife are bleak and often numbing spectacles certainly not confined to one country. We have been aware of that for years and years and we are painfully aware of it at a time when, in some countries – not least Greece, for many the cornerstone of the modern concept of civilisation – democracy seems to be on the ropes and day-to-day existence and survival even more so.

In this respect, paying ongoing homage to the dead and the survivors of Oslo and Utøya is all the more important because the attack was nothing less than an assault upon all those from different social and ethnic backgrounds who saw internationalism, tolerance and inter-racial and inter-communal harmony as intrinsic to building a just and fair society. This account is just one of several which should underline decisively how the 2011 attacks were incalculable as an act of murder and misanthropy alike; an attack on those who support the idea of refuge, an attack on actual refugees, an attack on those who seek to build bridges between their families and a wider society, an attack on the family itself, an attack on those who speak more than one language, an attack on those who use multi-lingual skills to foster integration and compassion.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has existed since the end of the Second World War, and therefore the best part of sixty years prior to July 2011, but we have not hesitated in again donating money to the organisation this July, as in July 2012 and July 2011, and urging others to do the same. If the 2011 attacks were attacks on Norway and humanity itself, the NRC has sought to show a way forward and provide humanitarian solutions across the globe – its importance as an organisation becoming all the greater as the scale of the crisis in the Middle East, to which the NRC is responding, becomes all the greater. It is relatively straightforward to make a PayPal donation to the organisation here. 


But we hope it goes without saying that we make sure such donations go hand in hand with financial support for the redevelopment of facilities on Utøya itself. You can see here on the website of the Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF) how a memorial service is set to take place this coming Monday; we would also draw your attention to the ongoing New Utøya project, which still accepts funds from organisations and private citizens alike. We are aware that the Paypal facility is experiencing some technical problems at the moment (the AUF are aware of this too), but it is still possible to make a bank transfer payment to the fund (details below).

We would stress, as is stressed on the website, that any such donations will not be used for party political purposes; what we find especially fitting is that the website stresses the importance of creating facilities that provide a sense of community. It is community in itself which transcends political partisanship and offers an enduring antidote and panacea to the darkest moments in modern human history; we are glad that the AUF has responded in this discerning and highly appropriate fashion. We wish them a poignant and fitting memorial service on Monday, just as we hope that all of Norway can experience the same; it would be no less than highly appropriate after the dignity, gentleness and stoicism that has been exhibited by the country and its inhabitants in the last twenty-four months.


Utøya itself – important in conveying lasting messages about community and idealism alike

Bank details for making a donation to the Utøya Fondet:

Account number: 9001 0884941

IBAN: NO4390010884941

Swift: labanokk

Bank details: Sparebank1, Oslo AkershusAS, Postboks 778 Sentrum, 0106 Oslo, Norway.

Account owner: Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking, Postboks 8863 Youngstorget, 0028 Oslo, Norway

PS We haven’t forgotten our call last year that the British Government should look to make good on the call of writer Michael Morpurgo, who suggested that Britain should look to make a gift of a tree to Norway that would stand as a symbol of permanent kinship and fraternity between the two nations. Time does not diminish our message to the UK authorities that it should still act. Norway gives us a very public tree every year, after all.


The very prominent tree received yearly from Norway