Norway, a bastion of liberal democratic values, has suffered an unimaginable assault. On Friday, a self-described Christian fundamentalist, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, went on a rampage, lashing out against what he saw as the “colonization” of Europe by Muslims. His actions—the cold-blooded murder of 92 people in two separate attacks—have shocked not only this small Nordic nation, but people the world over.
Norway is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, and a country that has dedicated much of its energies around the world to promoting democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law. As Burmese, we have a special connection with Norway. When Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Burma’s beleaguered democrats celebrated it as a moral victory over the regime’s refusal to recognize the electoral landslide of her National League for Democracy (NLD) the year before.
Since then, Norway has established itself as a firm friend of the people of Burma. In 1992, the Norwegian government provided support to establish the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma. And in countless other ways, Norway has continued to give generously to the cause of Burmese democracy.
It comes as no surprise, then, that in the face of the horror that Norway witnessed last week, the country’s prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, vowed to stand firm for the values that have come to define his country in the eyes of the world. “You will not destroy us,” Stoltenberg said. “You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world… no one shall scare us out of being Norway.”
On Saturday, Suu Kyi and the NLD sent a letter of condolence to the Norwegian ambassador in Bangkok. Today, The Irrawaddy would also like to offer its sincerest sympathies to the victims of Breivik’s crimes, who include not only those killed and injured, but also the entire nation of Norway. Indeed, the pain inflicted last Friday is felt by all who cherish democracy—especially those who know how it feels to see it come under brutal, senseless attack.
And so, to our friends in Norway, we offer these words of comfort: Never fear, because as the experience of Burma has shown, once democracy has taken hold in the hearts of a nation’s people, it never dies, no matter how badly it is beaten.