On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Minister of Children and Families Kjersti Toppe held a dialogue meeting with representatives of various Norwegian religious and life stance communities. The topic of discussion was the situation in the Middle East and the effects this is having on Norway.
‘The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is casting a dark shadow over the Middle East. The brutal attacks on civilians and the enormous scale of humanitarian suffering are affecting people far beyond the region, including here in Norway,’ said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
Increasing polarisation and division
The situation in the Middle East is also leading to increasing polarisation and division here in Norway.
‘We must do everything we can to combat polarisation and division in Norwegian society. The debate has become more confrontational, and some of the people I am meeting and talking to are clearly very concerned. We all have a responsibility to ensure that everyone in our country feels safe. It is unacceptable that people are now receiving threats because of who they are or what they believe in, and this is something we take very seriously. The war in the Middle East is not a war between religions,’ said Mr Støre.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Children and Families invited various religious and life stance communities to a meeting today aimed at promoting a constructive dialogue on how to prevent division and foster unity and trust.
‘The purpose of the meeting was to listen to the views of these groups on how we can maintain a close dialogue at a time when many people are feeling fearful and unsettled. We also discussed how we can work together to prevent further division and promote continued unity and trust within Norwegian society. I believe it was an important meeting and a constructive discussion,’ said Mr Støre.
Anxious and unsettled
Many Norwegians are currently feeling anxious and unsettled.
‘Some Norwegians have close ties to the Middle East through family, friends, or their religious affiliation. Open and close dialogue between mainstream society and religious and life stance communities is one of Norway’s strengths. By speaking together, we enhance our understanding of each other’s beliefs and life stance, which in turn promotes trust and solidarity. The heightened conflict in the Middle East underscores how important it is for us to continue to talk. I believe our dialogue at the meeting today was very positive,’ said Minister of Children and Families Kjersti Toppe.
In Norway, there has been formalised dialogue and discussion between different religious and life stance communities since the 1990s. The Government believes this dialogue is essential to achieving an open and tolerant society where everyone has knowledge of and respects each other’s beliefs and life stance.
The following groups were invited to the dialogue meeting:
- Church of Norway
- Jewish Community of Oslo
- Islamic Council Norway
- Muslim Dialogue Network Norway
- Christian Council of Norway
- Roman Catholic Diocese of Oslo
- Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities