Peace Scholar Post: The July 22nd Memorial Concert

While in Oslo as Peace Scholars, we’ve been deeply immersed in peace and conflict studies and kept busy by meeting wonderful leaders in the field of peace research such as Henrik Syse, innovators like Lisa Cooper and her Norwegian-Somali bridge building project, and even our counterparts in the Master’s Peace Research course. But we also don’t live (or study) in a vacuum. Periodically, our interactions with usually up-beat Norwegians are punctuated by a solemn look and a reference to the attacks of July 22nd, and the Norwegian newspapers’ frequent references to the attacks speak to their lasting impact on the Norwegian consciousness.

To mark the one year anniversary of the attacks, there was a memorial concert in Oslo on July 22nd which the peace scholars decided to attend. The concert itself was a “prayer for a peaceful future for Norway” (in the words of special guest Bruce Springsteen) and was a time for Norwegians to gather in solidarity following this great tragedy. And gather they did. The Oslo City Hall Plaza was filled to the brim and the area surrounding the concert was overflowing with people as well. The people at the concert came to mourn the losses of the 77 victims of the attacks last summer, but even more so to celebrate their lives and to show renewed commitment to being a peaceful and inclusive society.

The lineup of musical artists and authors who performed at the concert was quite impressive, but the most striking part of the evening was when Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg came on stage to deliver his keynote address:

“One year later we are again filling the streets, demonstrating our faith in each other and our open society. We had a choice. We could have retreated into our homes in fear. And barricaded ourselves behind a wall of mistrust. Instead we turned to each other and built bridges of trust. That was our spontaneous response to the violence last summer. We made the right choice… [And]it is the way the Norwegian people have responded to the atrocities during the past year that matters most:

There is greater confidence among us, and greater faith in democracy. Thousands have joined voluntary organisations and political parties. And more people are responding to hate speech with counterarguments. Hundreds of thousands have realised the power of pulling together, of reasserting our values. In this way we have created more democracy and more openness.”

Norway responded to anger with love, and to conflict with peace. That is what makes Norway such a special country, and as Peace Scholars, it was truly a privilege to be able to see that first hand.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg delivering keynote speech at July 22nd Memorial Concert

The full text of Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s speech can be found here

And footage of the concert can be found on YouTube by searching “July 22 Memorial Concert.”

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