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Health and Sanity

Danielle Batist
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piqer: Danielle Batist
Tuesday, 13 March 2018

One Man Who Turned Horror Into Compassion

Trying to understand what drives an extremist to committing horrific crimes is hard for most of us. And yet, in Norway, some of the work done in this area is initiated by survivors of those very crimes.

I was impressed and amazed when reading this interview with Norwegian Bjørn Ihler. He survived the Utøya massacre, but saw friends die at the hands of Anders Breivik.

He tells his unlikely story of survival, and how it led him to wonder what had made a human behave like this.

It was the start of a journey that has led Ihler to work with former extremists — mainly on the right, but including far left and Islamic radicals too — trying to understand what drove them towards violence, and what lessons may help others away from the same path.

Ihler learned that extremists on different sides have a lot in common. They share feelings of isolation, or being under threat from ‘the other’, to the point that they see no other option but to attack.

To counter extremism, we need to instil an acceptance of diversity. Ihler: “It means being able to be comfortable with someone having different ideas from you; a different way of life from you; being able to accept that, and learn to live with it.

One Man Who Turned Horror Into Compassion
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