Ten years have passed since the unjustified death of Anna Lindh and some questions remain unanswered. In his funeral oration (cited below) George A. Papandreou had stressed in a very emotional way: “…If Anna you could walk the streets of Stockholm and talk to your fellow Swedes, as you always did with deep respect, openness and compassion, you will find much sorrow and pain, you will find much love and appreciation with the flowers they carry, you will find much bewilderment and questions … why? Why? Why again?…”
Questions are raised since as humans we are faced with the unexpected, tragic feature of the deprivation of a person’s life that contributed to a better tomorrow for us all. Any violence, any such thoughtless act fills us with awe. There can be no explanation, there can be any form of understanding. Violence in any form raises questions.
Difficult questions in a world of violence and injustice. The big challenge in the world is now Democracy. Democracy is a term that is the foundation of our tradition. Democracy is the basis for the creation of a peaceful world and that is the world we want to build.
The big challenge in the world right now is democracy
Why do we run ahead to violence? Why replace dialogue, peaceful resolution of any disputes with our violence? Why do we break down every sense of respect of human existence; Why do we go ahead on unilateral acts, unaccountable brutality?
Our society embraces openness of all streams, ideologies, beliefs by abiding to certain principles of peace-loving coexistence, respect for human rights and diversity. These are the principles we believe in and they do not protect us from acts that overthrow them. Unilateral and collective acts of dispute and violence find space action to the extent that compliance with these values is perceived as a form of tolerance, which in turn is perceived as weakness. But tolerance means understanding and mutual respect, it is a fluid limit one can exceed, based on circumstances ephemeral or not. The human dignity, respect for the person, unite and help mutual understanding and mutual respect. Overcome feelings that divide, tame the disputes and strengthens the community.
Individual and collective extreme events indicate an abstention from the realization that the principles which we stand for we keep them. Our individual and collective action must lead us to the acceptance of common values on which we coexist, not to deprive us of them.
Our society is not naive, our democracy is not vulnerable. We as people, as individuals, we make our values vulnerable, not because we lack the notion of prevention or prohibition (which can receive a shade of repression), but as we did not acted sufficiently to promote the education, the strongest facet of which is the acceptance of elementary values such as respect for others. Our individual and collective effort in this direction make our democracy strong. Our strength lies in understanding of extreme events, to well-time them and act in anticipation of them.
Speech by George A. Papandreou at the event commemorating Anna Lindh Cseptember 2003)
I forgot to tell you something, you remember, when we last said goodbye. You remember at the rally at Medborgarplatsen where we spoke together with Goran? And in Norrkoping where we sat amongst young students talking to them about your vision of the future Europe? And when we had lunch with the Greek community and spoke about your children watching the football match between Sweden and Greece?
When we last said goodbye your face was smiling, that handsome magnetic smile, you were in fighting spirit, as you always are, and your touch… your touch
There is much I wanted to tell you Anna. You know, we politicians don’t seem to have the time to show our emotions. You were an exception. Your sunny smile expressed the warmth in your soul, as Javier tried to tell you. Your common touch was a gift. You touched our hearts and our minds, you simply touched our conscience. Daring, being honest, remaining loyal to your beliefs, demanding transparency, demanding openness and always expressing this with passion.
And Anna, in this you personified your country, Sweden. The Sweden I knew and talked to you about so many times, when I was a young boy – an exile, a refugee. When my family sought a place to breathe and to breathe freely: The Sweden of democratic tradition and openness, the Sweden of peace, the Sweden of solidarity, and the Sweden of compassion for the downtrodden in this world. The Sweden that has contributed so much to this new democratic Europe we are building together. From the Baltics to the Balkans.
It seems Anna that somehow you knew deep down what the fight for democratic values meant, what the fight for European values, and what the fight to be free from threats or oppression meant. It was also a very personal struggle. It was a commitment to practice one’s values in her daily life, to remain true to one’s beliefs, to be a full human being. It was the belief that you could succeed!
And it is no coincidence Anna that we are all here. From so many corners of the earth. And all of Europe. The Europe you fought for. And we have much to say to you that maybe, perhaps we never had the chance to.
Through you today Anna we honor your country Sweden which you so well represented. And we are all here.
But Anna we are also here for you. And it is for you we have cried.
It is the smiling Anna we will miss, it is your fighting spirit we will remember, it is your commitment Anna to the values of democracy and peace that will keep us inspired.
If Anna you could walk the streets of Stockholm and talk to your fellow Swedes, as you always did with deep respect, openness and compassion, you will find much sorrow and pain, you will find much love and appreciation with the flowers they carry, you will find much bewilderment and questions … why? Why? Why again?
And it is our very human nature to seek to explain. To understand how our lives may take a sharp and unexpected turn. To try to find reason in that which has no logic. To fathom the unfathomable.
If you talked to your fellow citizens many would ask you: is our society too naive? Is our democracy too vulnerable? Difficult questions in a world spattered with violence and injustice.
In a Funeral Oration, one of our European forefathers, Pericles, tried to answer this question:
He said our democracy is different and stronger than other totalitarian societies because:
• The majority rules
• We are all equal before the law, whether rich or poor,
• We do not need to plot policies in secret as our strengths lie in our values
• Debate does not weaken us but enlightens our decisions
• We do not need to impose our views by force we need to convince through our example – our democracy is a process of education
• Our democracy does not only provide for freedom in our public life but liberates us from suspicion towards our fellow citizen.
• We make friends not when we expect favors but when we offer help.
Could Pericles be talking about democratic Sweden today, the future Europe or our challenges in our global village? What I can say is that my friend, our dearest friend Anna Lindh, did not stray from these values. She upheld them. The cynic may say she was naive in the courage of her convictions; she was naive to trust.
I say she was brave enough to trust. That she led by her example – to the last moment of her life.
However we may answer to the pain we feel today, we will truly honor her memory by never undermining the values of the open societies we have created.
One more thing I must not forget:
Dear Anna, you leave behind a wonderful husband Bosse, and two beautiful children David and Filip. They can never bring back the magnificent woman, wife and mother called Anna. But I want to let you know that your European family is here. In full force. Your family now has a much wider family. It is Europe.
We will remain by their side. Dear Bosse, dear David and Filip this time I did not bring the bottle of olive oil from Greece Anna so much loved. Instead I brought something we cherish so highly in Greece that the Olympians have sought after it and it has symbolized the highest of values we cherish. Those of democracy and peace.In her memory I bring to you a branch from an olive tree.
Vi ska sakna henne.
Yassou Anna mou”