Sunday, 24 July 2011

Norway's tragedy, a tragedy for us all

I've only recently come back from holiday, but the bomb and shootings in Norway and the reaction to them seem to require some comment.

It seems that the headline 'Al-Qaeda' Massacre: Norway's 9/11 appeared in yesterday's Sun newspaper referring to the tragedy.  On Facebook Billy Bragg suggested that this was a good reason not to buy the Sun.  It certainly strikes me as irresponsible reporting.

The dreadful tragedy could perhaps be compared with 9/11 as it was so unexpected and so unimaginably horrific, but only in that respect.  I can see absolutely no reason to justify calling it an 'Al-Qaeda' massacre as it had nothing to do with this group.

The massacre was carried out by a lone 'Christian' fundamentalist with extreme right wing political views.

I presume, and certainly hope, that others who hold his religious and political views would not see any justification for killing so many people.  However, extremists have a tendency to use extreme language and extreme language can cause susceptible people to commit acts others only imagine and talk about.

'Christian' fundamentalists and people with extreme political views can use violent language and talk as if some people are less than human, not deserving their respect and perhaps begrudging them the soil they stand on and the air that they breath.  Religious extremists can believe that God is so displeased with some people he will punish them severely.  When such religious and political views mix they can result in a very dangerous cocktail of ideas.

This is why we all need to think carefully of the messages we are sending, of our attitudes to other people and the words that we use.  Christians talk of sin and Buddhists talk of the seeds of violence and other undesirable traits that lie within us.

Perhaps now is a good time to reflect on the seeds of hate and violence within us and consider what might cause them and at the same time to water the seeds of love, compassion and peace within us and the people around us.

Logo designed by Elena Jacobs, University of Alberta student.
The world is superimposed on an apple, the traditional 

symbol of education, where seeds of peace are cultivated
and hopefully come to fruition.

We cannot be held responsible for the deaths in Norway, but it is the attitudes in society in general that can lead to such acts.  Religious fundamentalist and those with extreme views of any sort need to think very carefully about how their words and attitudes could be construed by others.

This tragic incident also shows us that it isn't only Islamic fundamentalists who can carry out such horrific acts.  It also gives us reason to consider, if all Muslims are potential terrorists, does that make all Christians potential mass murders?  If not, could it be that we need to realise that among the Muslims of the world there are many decent people just like us who would never dream of carrying out such an atrocious act.