Erik Byes Memorial Prize to Johan Galtung
TRANSCEND News, 26 Sep 2011
On 5 September 2011 Professor Johan Galtung was awarded the Erik Bye Memorial Prize in Norway.
Erik Bye – who died in 2004 – was an outstanding journalist, writer, TV-personality and artist. He was very much loved by common people and greatly respected for being a seeker of the truth.
The prize is a bronze statuette created by the Norwegian craft artist Arne Vinje Gunnerud, and is handed over in the opening ceremony of The Christiansand Protest Festival. The prize is given to a person who “over a long period of time has showed a fearless, burning engagement to influence the development of society in a positive direction – locally, nationally or globally”. It is also a premise that the candidate has shown courage to pave the way for social justice, peace and human dignity.
Johan Galtung started his speech declaring his respect for Erik Bye: “Dear Erik. I loved you very much. And I believe it was mutual.”
Violence is not the answer
Galtung used the opportunity to shed light on how to understand and think about the horrible violence at the Norwegian government building and at Utøya. He drew a comparison between these acts and the Norwegian foreign policy. In both instances there was a theory to change the society behind the operations: for Norway, at war in Afghanistan, and for Breivik, killing people representing a society open for immigration – both deployed violence and killings to try to reach their goals.
There is no evidence that the choice of means to reach the goals on both situations brought about the expected results. “How do we come to terms with Norway both as victim – and perpetrator?” He challenged the audience to reflect on the reactions from family members of Talibans being killed by Norwegian soldiers – is it likely that they will accept the killings as a democratic and constructive operation for a positive development of the country? Or is it more likely that the sorrow and grief for their deceased loved ones will turn to hatred and a wish for revenge? Being a victim of terrible violence ourselves, he hoped Norway, as a nation, would conclude that violence is never an answer to conflicts.
If Norway could use this situation to tell the world: “We have suffered terrible losses due to extensive use of violence. We will stop using deadly violence in other countries – because we do not believe this will create the wanted result. We will actively work to find better ways to solve conflicts.” Then, he thought, Norway would truly become a peace nation.
Anne Bye – sad that you fit the criteria
Anne Bye – daughter of Erik Bye – made a point about the reasons for choosing Johan Galtung when she handed over the prize. She said that she had admired his work for a long time, and that she thought her father would have been very proud and happy about Johan Galtung being honored with the prize. Since it is rewarded to a person working “off-road” in the effort to create positive change in society, she thought it was a shame that extensive peace work qualifies for the title. “Your work should not have to be upstream but mainstream.”
Synove Faldalen is the Convener for TRANSCEND Nordic.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Sep 2011.
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