Why I am so proud to be watching the Swedes

A young woman with a pushchair walks past me and pins a pink rose onto the wire fence. She stops a moment to reflect, clearly taken by the gravity of the moment. A middle-aged couple huddle together holding tightly onto their teenage son. A woman wearing a hijab gently puts a consoling hand on a crying stranger’s shoulder as she passes silently by. 

There are tens of thousands of people gathered here on Sergel’s Torg Plaza in Stockholm but the noise level is subdued. A respectful silence hangs in the air. The sun is high and shines down on us on this, the warmest day of the year so far. 

A few meters from here, 48 hours ago, 4 people lost their lives in a terrorist attack, and many more were injured. Amongst the murdered victims were a Belgian tourist, a British man living in Stockholm and two Swedes, one of which was a 11 year old girl on her way home from school. 

Today, Stockholmers are gathered in a ‘Love manifestation’ vigil to pay their respects to the victims and their families. The place is packed with people of all ethnic, religious, political and social backgrounds. But today none of this matters, they are united as one. 

I have never been more proud to be watching the Swedes as I am at this moment. When faced with a national trauma, what do these people do? Do they meet it with fear? No, they meet it with love. It is almost palpable at this moment. And with their love, they beat terrorism. 

Minutes after the terrorist attack, the hashtag #openstockholm appeared on which people opened their hearts to each other. They offered sanctuary, support, a sofa for the night, a lift home, food to anyone who needed it. They responded with love, not fear. 

The day after, they went in their droves to the location of the attack and attached flowers to a fence and lit candles. They hugged emergency workers and covered a police car with flowers to show their gratitude. They responded with love, not fear. 

And today, they came in their tens of thousands to show that they are not afraid. They listened to inspirational speeches and moving music. They took back the streets and they did it with love, not fear. 

I’ve spent many years writing about these people – the Swedes. I write sometimes in despair, sometimes in frustration but often with fondness and humor. But today I write with pride. An immense pride. 

As I linked arms with a stranger, an old white-haired lady, and participated in a one-minute silence, I felt inspirited. I was a part of something larger than myself. I don’t know what it was, but it was significant: a meaningful moment in Sweden’s history that will affect the national psyche for a long time to come. 

One of the speakers at the vigil encouraged people to continue to open their hearts and their doors. Showing solidarity and keeping Stockholm an open city is a priority. But this is something we can only achieve if we do it together. 

The final quote of the vigil summed everything up. A quote from Martin Luther King – 

Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’

22 thoughts on “Why I am so proud to be watching the Swedes

  1. From my point of view are swedes an introvert people, but with your eyes we seem to be the oposit, and it makes me cry of relief.

  2. I worked in Sweden on and off for 25 years, and lived in Stockholm for 18 months. Swedes are not perfect, but they have a sense of community on a realist level that I have never seen anything like in the 15 European countries I have worked in.Swedes are not introverted, to me, they are simply serious and careful

  3. Neil, thank you for your kind words. It’s a daily struggle but we’re trying to build a decent society. When we fail, we try again not giving up.

  4. It’s maybe the sincerity in having a society that actually not only works, but also works for everyone.

  5. Let it be this flame of love become turning point around the world to save humanity. Indeed it is a “daily sruggle” as Anders Åhnberg saying and we all should keep trying. It is a fantastick summary of how the light won and did not let dark power take control of our lives, thank you Neil.

  6. We will prevail over trrrorism by union , intelligence and respect through freedom and knowledge
    of what our world needs and does not always within the framework of care and love of all
    we have inherited in our time frame in this universe……

    1. Not pride in anyones death, only sorrow, and respect, and deep compassion for their bereaved families and friends.
      But also an equally deep belief that hatred and fear will gain us nothing.
      Giving to others all the hope, love and trust we are able, asking ourselves what can be done by me, today and most days, that could spread courage, comfort, , smiles and hope among others, who in turn will continue in ways they are able.

  7. Fin beskrivning och vackra ord går rakt in i en stolt svenskt hjärta. Med kärlek besegrar man ondska

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