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Last Updated: 08/01/2011
Thoughts on Violence in Oslo
Christer Persson

Head of UPEACE's Department of International Law and Human Rights, and national of Sweden, Christer Persson reflects on the recent violence in Oslo, Norway, offering his thoughts on politically motivated violence in open and transparent societies and sharing his condolences with the people of Norway.

Scandinavia, and in particular Norway, has lived a weekend of sorrow, sadness and drama of an extraordinary character. Our societies, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, are very much alike; they are open, transparent, and on the whole they have been excused from political violence since, in the case of Norway, May 17, 1945. Exceptions to this rule are the assassinations of the Swedish PM on February 28, 1986 and Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lind 10 years ago. In Norway, however, political violence is, until last Friday, unheard of since 1945. Sweden, Stockholm experienced a religiously motivated suicide bombing and a car bomb last December!

We, the Nordics, always feel close. We have similar legislation, we think alike, we speak (with the exception of non Swedish-speaking Finns) the same language, and we cooperate indeed closely since 1948 within the Nordic Cooperation.

I am and was last Friday some 400 km from Oslo, very close by our standards. In March, I was in Oslo and walked through the government quarters on my way to and from the Foreign Ministry. I have never been to the island on which the youth group was attacked, but on many other islands in the bay of Oslo.

Unfortunately, due to many recent events and the impact of the news, the thoughts of many went immediately in the direction of a religiously motivated attack on the island and in the city of Oslo. While running in the forest that same Friday evening, my thoughts, in addition to feeling enormous sadness and sorrow, went elsewhere. I was proven correct; the events were planned by one man starting about eleven years ago. A man with a distorted political mind managed to plan and kill almost 100 people, by him assumed Marxists, belonging to the governing party, the Norwegian Social Democratic Party, a party he accused of being too friendly to foreigners of all nations, but in particular, followers of the Islamic faith.

Many questions come to mind that we can and shall discuss later this year about Europe, the world, and politically motivated violence and attacks on open societies! Now I feel only sadness and, to some extent, despair. My son Anders, some of you know him, had friends on the island, who luckily escaped unharmed. We are all five small societies; the circles grip into each other, and I am certain that almost nobody in Norway did not have a friend, relative, or a friend to a friend in Oslo or on Utöy that day.

On Saturday morning, I went, in spite of not being a religious man, to the church in this small town that every summer houses and greets 1000s of Norwegian tourists to light two candles trying to show my respect for those who perished in these senseless attacks. One candle for Oslo and one for the island. I took the liberty to include you all in my show of respect, sorrow and grief for all the victims.

Regards from Lidköping, Sweden.

Christer Persson

Christer Persson (Sweden) is Head of the Department of International Law and Human Rights at the University for Peace.