Fighting Indifference, Remembering Injustice
This past Thursday we took a trip to the Nobel Institute Library as part of our Peace Scholar course. It was inspiring to sit in the room where so many Nobel Peace Laureates had been decided. Past recipients of the award looked down on us from the portraits that lined the small room. When looking over the photographs, I noticed many names that I knew very well. Nelson Mandela, Fridtjof Nansen, and the speakers from last year’s Peace Prize Forum, Muhammad Yunus and Tawakkol Karman. For this blog, I would like to talk about one recipient whom I only recently became familiar with.
In my freshman year I took a literature and writing course, where we concentrated on materials that dealt with genocide. We read the inspiring story of Halima Bashir, a survivor of the Darfur conflict, in her book Tears of the Desert. But the story that hit me the hardest was “Night” by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Wiesel told of his experience in the Holocaust, where several members of his family died in concentration camps. But he survived, and has been educating people about peace and the horrible cost of indifference. What Mr. Weisel understands is that such atrocities don’t need to happen; the international community can all too often stop them from escalating, but the political will simply isn’t there. On the Nobel Peace Prize website, he is quoted as saying that “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference” something which has been played demonstrated in conflict after conflict in which the developed world has neglected to intervene.
In addition to my thoughts on this laureate, I would also like to write about a very powerful experience that I had last week. Every week, the school provides a Norwegian movie for screening in one of their auditoriums. Last week the film was “Max Manus: Man of War,” which follows the WWII experience of Norwegian resistance fighter Max Manus. The film is a powerful, unflinching look at the hardships and ugly realities of a war that scarred a country that hadn’t been to war in over a hundred years. One of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the movie deals with the reprisal shooting of five Norwegian dock workers after the resistance group sinks several German ships in the Oslo harbor.
The next day I was wondering through the harbor district after class and decided to make my way up to Akershus fortress, a castle that has dominated the Oslo harbor since the 13th century. I’ve always loved history, in particular medieval buildings, so I was enjoying my walk through the compound when a simple stone monument caught my eye. It said “De kjempet de falt de gav oss alt” (They fought, they fell, they gave us all). It was a memorial to the resistance fighters killed during the war. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was the exact spot that was portrayed during the execution scene in the movie. It was a moment that hammered home the terrible price of war, where so many lives are cut tragically short, often for the most trivial of reasons. This is why peace and dialogue studies are still vital, even in a world where conflict seems continual and inevitable.