You may have heard about Skien. It is a tiny city in tiny Norway. Why, you wonder? It’s because it’s where the Norwegian terrorist Anders B. Breivik is held. I’m not going to talk about him though; he has been talked about too many times, by too many. No, this post is about the city I came to after traveling Norway for nearly three weeks, and about the old prison that became a school.
Welcome to Skien city!
I stayed there for three nights. I was visiting a friend and thought I had a pretty good idea of what the place looked like – I didn’t. There were bars over the windows, heavy doors to each room (some of which still had functional food hatches), and a net separated the floors. Needless to say I loved it.
Today, the building is used for Discipleship Training School – DTS. Young people from all over the world (like from: Peru, Germany, India and the US) attend this school. Many of them have a Gap Year, but some also want to become missionaries.
A food hatch. Disclaimer: not my hand.
It was strange seeing a person in slippers, busy brushing his teeth, causally walking past me, yelling over his shoulder that he would join his friends for pool later. What was it like when there were still inmates here? That guy now gurgling loudly would have had a position at the top of the hierarchy, in for fraud perhaps? Great at talking his way out of things. Great at talking others into them too, like the tall fellow reading on the coach. That one would probably have been in for a violent crime. He would have been great with numbers, but have a poor self-esteem and a slight anger management problem. Had anyone even remotely like this served their time at the prison? I’ll never know, and perhaps that is for the best.
I’m not the most religious person, and it didn’t take long before I was exposed. However, I was still just as welcome, because a friend of my friend was a friend of everyone. The building might have been a prison before, but for the people I met – it was a home. We sat down together and discussed religion and prison, and when it all got to tense, we decided that it all didn’t really matter at the moment. So what if there are several different types of Christianity, if some believe in the Big Bang and some don’t. There is a time for everything – and we found that it was time to dance.
So somewhere in the world, right now, there is a place where there used to be a prison, which now is a school. In that place, people, from all over the world, with differences in opinions and beliefs, coexist. Peace is possible, and when a disagreement is inevitable, let’s turn up the music instead of fight.