Should 22nd July became a "National Day of Remembrance" in Norway?

05-05-2019 10:28 pm

Friday 22nd July 2011 is a day that most Norwegians will remember. Regardless of where you were in the world on that day, most will remember how they felt the moment they heard of the explosion in Oslo, and a few hours later - the massacre on Utøya.

I was 7 years old when the terrorist attacks happened. Some of my memories about that day, and the days and weeks that followed are fragmented. As I have gotten older, my memories are like a jigsaw puzzle that eventually start to fit together and make sense. I write in the hope that one day, all my memories wil fall into place - and because 22-July represents not only the "darkest day" in Norway's history since the 2nd World War but because 22-July is the day our life was turned upside down.

My family and I have lived with the brutal consequences for almost 8 years. Each year since before my sister was killed we have commemorated Anzac Day, remembering our fallen soldiers who lost their lives during the first and second World Wars. Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance for both New Zealanders and Australians - a day that all children grow up learning about why it is important that we commemorate Anzac Day.

Since the first 22-July commemoration that was held on Utøya in 2012, my parents have asked and begged the government for 22-July to be a National Day of Remembrance in Norway, just like Anzac Day. Like my parents and other 22-July families, I too believe that the only way to teach the future about the terrible things that happened on 22-July in Norway, is to make the actual day - a memorial day.

In Norway, we love to preach about how proud we are of the fact that we are a "open and democratic society" and protect "freedom of speech". But what about responsibility? No one has unlimited freedom to say what they want. Our laws are suppose to protect us from "hate speech" but do they? For almost 8 years, our government has produced thousands of pages with policies aimed at making Norway a safer place to live, in the hope that 22-July never happens again. And yet, the hateful ideologies that killed my sister blossom like weed throughout social media sites as if it is "normal". It is no longer just right-winged nationalists who are spreading hate and intolerance, but it has spread to our main-stream population as well. Why?

For almost 8 years, "hate and intolerance" has moved out of the shadows and flourishes online - via social media. Politicians, bereaved parents and survivors have become victims of not only "hate speech" but for some, their lives and that of their families have being threatened. It's not enough that many of the "victims of the 22-July terrorist attacks" have to live every day with the heinous consequences, but they are also victimised in their daily lives as well. Not by a convicted mass murdering terrorist, but by people in our communities. For the past few years, some of our politicians have been at the centre of some of the worst comments made against our minorities - our communities of different faiths, cultural diversity and genders. Their differences rather than similiarities, have created divisons in our communities - we are becoming a society of "us and them". Our generation did not sign up for this! If we continue to "look the other way" whenever we come across hate and intolerance, we are equally responsible for the division that has been created. One thing that I wonder about, is if we can't fight "bullying", how can we possibly fight against "hate and intolerance" that has existed since the begining of time?

I truly believe that all the policies in the world won't stop extremisme - and the fact that new terrorist attacks keep happening all over the world, governments certainly can't do it on their own. Which is why I think that Norway needs to teach future generations about "victims of terrorism". We have spent almost 8 years talking about "extreme ideologies", while the victims of the 22-July terrorist attacks have literally taken a backseat to the terrorist that killed them. Now it is time, to teach my generation who the victims were - because I believe that it is the only way to fight hate. The people we lost were loved, and it is our love for them that we tell the world around us who they were. Maybe "love does conquer all" ...?

Remembering the 77 victims of Norway's terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya (2011) Photo Credit: Unknown