Too many responses to the Oslo bombing and Utoya Island shooting are, predictably, adding to the kind of hateful sentiments which give rise to such attacks. Remarkably, some have responded with a strength of heart and faith that gives energy to the way of love, as distinct from ways of fear. It appears that those who call themselves Christian are included in both groups: both those incline to perpetuate division and violence with their responses, and those who have allowed their broken hearts to open and embrace the pain of ‘the other.’
Three comments drew my attention immediately:
The Reverend Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, The World Council of Churches’ General Secretary and Norwegian himself, immediately offered words of prayer for victims of violence, terror, violence and extremism – not only in his homeland but for many places of the world. His words call us to pray for leaders that they would act for the common good, offering hope and not fear. I met Dr Tveit when we participated together in the WCC delegation to the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen. His leadership reflects the best of his church and nation’s approach to the way of peace.
Then, at a simple ceremony at Oslo’s cathedral, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “We are still horrified over what happened. But we will never give up our values… Our answer is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity – – but never naivety.”
Third, a man named Rune Håkonsen tweeted that CNN had asked survivors if they would strike back. Answer: “If one man can hate so much, imagine the love we can show together.”
Striking back is the most primitive, predictable response that can be made to such tragedy – and yet it turns out to be the normal response all too often, from all kinds of leaders – political, and yes, sometimes religious.
To immediately say and do what these three have said is a demonstration of the spiritual discipline required in such moments as followers of Christ. These actions assume an abundance of peace — and thereby make peace possible. As people who know the deep peace of Christ, we participate in God’s healing work and join Olav in the final words of his prayer:
These prayers and the heavy silence of our hearts we offer in the name of
your son Jesus Christ who trod the path of peace in the face of violence.