On Friday 29 July 2011, a week after the violence in Norway and on the day of the first funerals, I had the privilege to be part of a silent march in Fairyland, an informal settlement outside Paarl. The march was organised by the staff of Drakenstein Hospice and the children involved at Butterfly House, a day- and after-care facility for people infected or affected by HIV which was built with the funds and assistance of Norwegians. The march in Fairyland was a wonderful opportunity to express some of the feelings of compassion and solidarity that I have been experiencing since the terrible news of the bomb and massacre in Oslo and on the island Otøya reached us last Friday. Below is the short speech that I made before our march. I spoke in very simple Afrikaans so that the youngest of the children could understand and one of the staff translated in isiXhosa. It was amazing how the children joined in the spirit of quiet grief and solidarity. Nobody spoke along the way, nobody played or fooled around – it was like a real funeral procession as we kept on walking with other children from the township joining us along the way. Our Norwegian friends and colleagues as well as all the Norwegian families who have been traumatized are very much in my thoughts and prayers. I will never forget the kindness, warmth, hospitality, generosity and friendship that we share.
29 July 2011
We have gathered today to express our love for and solidarity with the Norwegian people who have been deeply shocked and traumatized by the terrible acts of violence that shook their peaceful country last Friday 22 July 2011. First there was the devastation of the bomb that shook government buildings in central Oslo and killed 8 people. While Norwegian citizens and the rest of the world were trying to make sense of this news, the senseless and cruel slaughtering of young people on the island of Otøya took place – almost a 100 were shot of which 68 died as they tried to flee into the water. Shock, disbelief, devastation and helpless grief filled our hearts as we watched from afar. This is Norway – a democracy open to people from all over the world. The country of natural beauty, wealth, human rights and Oslo the capital and city of the Nobel peace prize ….
Here at Drakenstein Hospice, and specifically here in Fairyland and at Butterfly House we feel so strongly connected to the people of Norway. We have made so many friends who have come to visit, to work and who have generously contributed to make the building and day to day running of this facility possible. In this community Butterfly House, the gift to us from the generous hearts of Norwegians, is a beacon of hope, community, learning, care and healing. I remember how the first group of family therapists came from Trondheim in 2005 and gathered to sing Nkosi sikileli ‘iAfrika – a gift and blessing to us right within the first few hours of their visit. The way in which all the people from Norway who came to Drakenstein since then with open hearts to witness this community with such love and compassion certainly confirmed one thing: the people from the far away land of snow up north is part of the bundle of life with the people at the warm and sunny southern tip of Africa. Beloved Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Archboship Desmond Tutu explains ubuntu as we experience it from the people of Norway:
Ubuntu […] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say […] “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”
Today we acknowledge that in the bundle of life we feel your pain, your trauma, loss and sadness, dear friends in Norway. We stand in solidarity with you as you recommit yourself as a nation to love, peace and tolerance. We, here in Fairyland and at Drakenstein Hospice, are determined to teach love as Nelson Mandela (who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993) proposes:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
These terrible, terrible acts of violence, based on hatred and intolerance will serve to strengthen our commitment to practice and teach love. We will not allow these acts of one man to steal our peace, hope and joy. We will hold onto the hope for a world that will learn to understand what is so passionately expressed by Archbishop Tutu:
“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”
We hold you very close to out hearts and in our prayers, constantly, dear Norwegian friends – precious part of our bundle of life.