The Week in Lillehammer
On Friday, 22nd of June, students hailing from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, and several Lutheran universities from across the United States including my own Pacific Lutheran University concluded an auspicious week of intensive dialogue and relationship building activities at the Nansen Dialogue Center in Lillehammer, Norway. For me, what had before promised to be an incredible week of exploration, newly-found friendships, and interesting discussions turned into something even more significant.
Our first full day at Nansen began with introductions between an incredibly diverse group of people. These introductions were far from basic socialization and greetings however. Our initially 30 minute session stretched on for almost two hours between two different groups, as Steiner Bryn urged us to not only listen but to ask good questions, the true reflection of a rich conversation. I knew from that moment that this week was going to be one of the most valuable I’d ever had.
As the week progressed my expectations were shattered, as everyday we jumped into difficult and thought-provoking discussions on the complicated history of our countries, the roots of conflict, and the methods of interaction that dialogue can bring to the table between groups to secure in many cases the only chance at visibility and understanding between different people. In particular the chance we had to separate into “Americans” and “Europeans” and ask difficult questions to each other and ourselves on foreign policy, ethnic divisions, and immigration issues left me yearning for not one, but three, four, or five weeks in Lillehammer’s lush, green, quaint and colorful world.
As the week concluded and we prepared to get on the bus to Oslo to continue our studies the mood was both excitement, joy, but also an unspoken sadness at our imminent departure, it all went by so wonderfully fast. This week in Lillehammer was one of the best of my life, and I think we all knew we were incredibly lucky to have been one of the few people to get to do this program, and perhaps what we owe in return is to impart some part of what we experienced in to others, to share and spread the methods of dialogue to our own communities.