Congratulations on the Human Rights Day of 10 December – and congratulations to the Tunisian Peace Quartet who is today receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in my home country’s capital of Oslo.

It is a cold in Oslo this time of year, often with snow on the ground, people walking fast on the streets in the morning when they are on the way to work, and in the afternoon, at four or five, when they are on the way home. The sun has already set, daylight is scarce, and many times, there are snowflakes and mist in the air, usually with temperatures just around freezing. But that is outdoors.

Indoors, in the shopping malls and supermarkets, and in cafés and restaurant, the business people know how to attract customers in well-heated rooms; buses and trains are comfortable and almost cozy, and certainly the homes of the wealthy Norwegians. The Norwegians do well even after they have had to devalue the Norwegian Kroner since the price of their main natural resources, oil and gas, has been halved in the recent years. It is likely to be temporary, and it also gives them an opportunity to ‘re-discover’ the many other resources they are blessed with, fish, forests, waterfalls, energy and a top-educated population living in equality, peace and harmony.

The some six hundred thousand immigrants in Norway (in a country of five million), half of them from outside Europe and North America, including almost a third Muslims, among them forty thousand mostly well-settled Pakistanis and a similar number of Afghans and Iraqis, and a growing number of Syrians. Yes, they live in harmony, and most quickly become patriotic on behalf their new homeland, either they plan to settle or return home after some time, when they have saved some money and their children have benefitted from the education and social services. In practice, most will stay, as has happened with the Pakistanis, many of them Gujratis, who immigrated voluntarily, not as refugees, in the late 60s and 70s.

It is a human right that everyone is treated equally and just, irrespective of creed or cradle. On the Human Rights Day, we should remind ourselves of this principle.

Most of the ‘new Norwegians’ do well, but not all, and therefore the government and the ‘old Norwegians’, and the newcomers from other lands, critically search for better ways of integrating the newcomers, who have changed the outlook, literally, of Norway in the last two generations. The land has changed; the capital and the major cities have become multi-cultural and multi-religious. The land has become richer for it; people are no longer just white Lutheran Christians, but people of many religions, colours, and backgrounds. Sometimes with frictions, of course, but most of the time, the new and old accept each other.

If we want to see it, we realize that Norway has become better thanks to immigration and diversity. It may take a while for all to admit it; and sometimes it can be painful when a Pakistani young woman does better at secondary school than a middle-class Norwegian classmate. Norwegians realize they have to work harder to compete with the clever and indeed hardworking immigrants.

But sometimes I think that immigrant parents push their children too hard to succeed at school and work. In a generation or two, hopefully, the immigrants will also become a bit less competitive, like the Norwegians are, because life isn’t only about being best in class; it is also about being helpful, kind, considerate, enjoy sports, nature and more. In a welfare state like Norway, people don’t have to keep running faster and jump higher all the time, do better at exams and outsmart the others. They will be all right even if they are just average and decent people. Well, immigrants also show everyday kindness, as Norwegians may sometimes forget in an efficient society.

In any society, it is not the clever few who run the land; it is the rest of us, who are average or below. We help the few to excel, to do well as leaders, at work and in business, and so on. Sometimes, there are some immigrants who excel, even in the first generation, but more often in the second and third generation. We have many such Pakistanis in Norway!

And then a few words about multiculturalism: In Europe, there are politicians and even experts who feel that multiculturalism has not been a successful policy. I think it has, yet, integration and diversity can also improve – often very much. It is the responsibility of the new land, and it is also the responsibility of the various groups of newcomers. Yet, I am also impressed by the way multiculturalism is developing in Norway and elsewhere in Europe.

Fast and superficial assimilation is not the solution. People must be allowed to integrate to a major degree. But if newcomers are too opportunistic and willing to give up all from their own culture, religion and values, I would have difficulties trusting them. Besides, the host countries would not have the opportunity to learn from them.

It is a human right, for individuals and groups to keep their culture, religion and values from home, and borrow and adapt from the new land and other lands. But it is also required that we all adjust to the norms and ways of the land we live in, and most public things will be decided by the majority groups in democracies. Yet, also minorities have rights and duties, vis-à-vis the majority society and other minority groups.

I want us today, on this year’s Human Rights Day, celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, to be proud of immigrants and refugees. I want us to include those who are forced to leave their homeland. They are not the problem; forced migrants are the outcome of failed policies in lands and regions, which are man-made or natural.

Instead of terming the influx of many newcomers in Europe a ‘migration crisis’, we should immediately look for the many positive opportunities in the situation. For the host countries, the newcomers are mostly assets, not liabilities.

We can also learn from Pakistan, which has hosted millions of Afghan refugees in over 35 years. A poor country, mostly with poor yet kind people, has welcome and hosted the mostly poor and kind Afghans, often desperately searching for a place to call home, temporarily or long-term. It wasn’t always done perfectly, but the Pakistani governments and civil servants have generally done a fantastic job. Let us recall that when the ‘Heart of Asia’ meeting ends in Islamabad today.

Don’t you think the rich European can draw lessons from our experience? Let us all do what God Allah wants us to do. As Christmas approaches, coming with a message of peace for all, we are reminded of our duties to all fellow human beings. And, Islam is also a religion of peace. We should all begin to say so. Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas gift?

Finally, congratulations to Pakistan’s Malala Yousafza and India’s Kailash Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. And congratulations to the Tunisian National Peace Quartet, who was awarded this year’s prize.

The snow and chill in Oslo will be turned into warmth and lights today as the Nobel Peace Events take place. Thousands of people will burn candles and celebrate in solidarity with those who need help - and in admiration of all the extraordinary and ordinary people who work day out and day in for a better, fairer and more just world for all.