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Politics & press news – Embassy 21 – December 2009

A tale of two trees

Two very different embassy Christmas trees have brought a message of peace and reconciliation to London this festive season.

The most famous, and the most visible, is the Norwegian tree on Trafalgar Square. Since 1947, a tree has been given to the people of Britain in gratitude for its support for Norway during World War II. When Norway was invaded by German forces in 1940, a Norwegian exile government was set up in London.

To most Norwegians, London came to represent the spirit of freedom during those difficult years.

Another smaller, yet no less significant tree, can be found in the Rwandan High Commission. Decorated with finely woven 'peace baskets', the tree represents reconciliation in the country.

As Linda Karimba, the acting high commissioner, explains: 'After the genocide, we had to rebuild the Rwandan society and the shattered economy and our prized basket weaving craft was one way of generating income. So it happened that women from the villages gathered together – some the victims of the genocide, others wives of the perpetrators – to weave these baskets together.

And while they worked together to make their living, they were also weaving our divided society back together.'

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