PM defends diversity in Utøya address

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Wreaths by the landing where boats cast off for Utoya Island, visible in the background. Photo: Scanpix
14:45 CEST+02:00
PICTURES - The Norwegian prime minister bowed in respect to victims of the 22/7 terror attacks two years ago, after delivering a speech in defence of diversity in the face of xenophobia, as the sun shone over the island of Utøya behind him.

"It still hurts to rememberJuly 22nd, 2011. It hurts to remember the people we lost. It hurts to remember the people who are injured for life," utoya-island" target="_blank">Jens Stoltenberg said as he addressed mourners on the landing where the boat to Utøya casts off.

Two years ago, when Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 people on the island, which is owned by the Labour Party youth wing the AUF, it was overcast and raining. On Monday, a glorious summer's day saw Stoltenberg deliver his address.

"Mothers, fathers, best friends, siblings, girl- and boyfriends. Nobody carries a heavier sorrow than they," Stoltenberg said. "Two years later, we know that we will always share their pain."

The prime minister, who earlier in the day attended a memorial service for the bombing victims in Oslo's government quarters as well as a service at Oslo Cathedral, took the opportunity to praise his party's youth wing, both for their response to the terror attack and their continued work. 

"Two years later, I am so very proud of the AUF," Stoltenberg said. "Two weeks ago I met them at their summer camp. I experienced something that both touched and impressed me. AUF's heart for a just world still beats as hard as ever."

He said the youth wing's behaviour immediately following the attack, in which a total of 77 people lost their lives, had made him proud.

"The world saw an AUF that did not scream for revenge, but stood true to its ideals, they saw an AUF that was a role model. I am proud of that, and the AUF should be proud of it too."

Stoltenberg went on to deliver a steadfast defence of diversity, of which Breivik was an outspoken critique and which he blamed left-leaning politicians for introducing in the small Scandinavian country.

"We must meet prejudice with knowledge, meet hate with argumentation. In that way, extremism cannot hinder diversity in Norway. We see diversity at university, in the work places, in the sports arenas. People with different skin colours, different backgrounds, different religions, they contribute to a culturally and financially richer Norway." 

Stoltenberg finished by saying that the one way to honour the youth wing members who lost their lives was to stand up for their ideals. 

They had different lives but they shared one ram, a dream about peace and justice. We thank them for all they gave us when they were alive. Their deaths give both the AUF and the Labour Party new strength to fight for our fundamental values." 

The prime minister finished his address with a brief bow, before being joined by AUF leader and Utøya survivor Eskil Pederson to lay two wreaths on the landing. 

Pedersen, who spoke moments before the prime minister, also asked Norwegians to spurn all forms of extremism. 

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"Some days we might even felt hatred, but for me the sadness eclipses everything, the wish that (the victims) were still here, that we could see them just one last time. But they are still with us, even though they are not here," Pedersen said. 

The youth wing leader continued by asking that everyone respect that some people might need longer to battle the pain and sorrow.

"We must accept that we have different tempos," he said. "There are those who are fighting to keep their concentration at school and at work, who see that while Norway has moved one, they do not have the strength to do so. It is not a failure not to be able to master all the toils of life, life goes up and down."

"We can never find meaning in that day, but we can find meaning in moving on with our lives. Nobody should feel guilty because they want to enjoy life." 

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