OUR OPINION: Terror, sadness need deeper relief

By NEMS Daily Journal

Hundreds of memorial services worldwide have been held or are scheduled soon for the 77 people killed in Norway by an extremist set on bloodshed for what he believes is a political party’s role in the alleged Islamization of Europe.
The people attacked mostly were adolescents at a summer youth assembly, plus people in and near a government building in downtown Oslo, the capital.
Were anyone to name the three or four most civilized and least violent nations, Norway almost certainly would be in the list. Peaceful. Accepting. Educated. Welcoming.
One Norwegian saw the situation violently and radically in a different light. Anders Behring Breivik, who confessed to that attack and the bomb blast in Oslo, underwent his second police interrogation Friday, the Voice of America reported. Police said the 32-year-old Norwegian “remained calm.”
Breivik admits responsibility for the killings, but he has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges. The suspect claims to be part of a wider “crusade” against Muslim immigration and multiculturalism in Europe. Police have said they think he acted alone. Norway’s top prosecutor says it is possible Breivik also may be charged with crimes against humanity. Few would argue against the charge.
Earlier Friday, Norwegians honored the memory of the victims as the first funerals were held a week after the attacks that traumatized the country.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg led a somber national memorial service in the capital, Oslo, with members of the ruling Labor Party raising bouquets of flowers as each speaker took the stage.
Voice of America reported that Stoltenberg said the evil that hit Norway last Friday has brought out the best in its people, and called on the nation to unite around its core values of democracy and peace.
That is remarkable, civilized restraint.
At the memorial service, Stoltenberg added, “Out of our grief a much stronger unity will arise. We are going to honor and celebrate our heroes, but most of all we are going to stay true to our ideas and our values.”
It is noteworthy, in stark contrast to the shooter’s mindset, among the first interred were an 18-year-old Muslim girl, a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq, who was buried in Nesodden, south of Oslo, and a 19-year-old Muslim was buried near Hamar, north of the capital. The two were among 69 people shot dead at a youth camp.
The violence was the deadliest in Norway since World War II, when it was occupied by Nazis.
Such events precipitate the kind of inner pain described by Fr. Henri Nouwen in his famous book of meditations, “Bread for the Journey”
He calls the experience “Spiritual Dryness.”
“Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don’t experience God’s presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.
“Then it is important to realize that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience Gods presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don’t, it does not mean that God is absent.
“It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.”
Some Norwegians will find solace in those or similar words. Nouwen wrote them believing that anyone could have access in time of need..
(Text excerpts were taken from “Bread for the Journey,” published in 1997. Visit the website www.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=423 for more information.)