The moon was sighted at the end of Ramadan, as it always is, and that is already a week ago now, and we have celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr yet another time, and most people are back at work and everyday life – thanks to God. Eid Mubarak, dear readers, Muslims and non-Muslims, believers in any religion or none – remembering, too, that God is one and for all, irrespective of what we human beings think.

As a Christian in a largely Muslim land, I always think like this – and I assume that Muslims in my homeland of Norway think the same way – and there is a good number Muslims of Pakistani origin there, and Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Somalis, and from other countries where Islam is a majority religion, and there are some from countries where Islam is a minority religion, too, including indigenous Muslims from Norway.

I hope we have all taken time to reflect on issues related to Ramadan, and that we have gained strength and deeper insight in ourselves and the world around us – and in faith and spiritual issues.

Allow me to draw attention to my article of 9 June 2016, entitled ‘Ramadan for all’, where I referred to a Norwegian social scientist and columnist, Aksel Braanen Sterri, A ‘culturally Christian’, but not a believer, he said. He is a social scientist, columnist and non-fiction writer, and had come to think of Ramadan, and had realized that the cultural, social, spiritual and religious traditions connected to the holy month can indeed be valuable for people anywhere. In Christianity, too, fasting is part of the old traditions and religious practice; it is fixed to the forty days leading up to the Easter holiday in February and March. However, fasting is not practiced literally by many denominations any more, but the spiritual aspects are given focus in sermons and language. Even in Islam, it is man’s relationship with God and fellow human beings that is most important, not whether one actually fasts, although Islam says that adults who are in good health should fast.

Towards the end of Ramadan, I attended a seminar one evening, after having celebrated Iftar, and we were several members in the meeting who had stern disagreements about some issues; our language was less polite than it should have been. In hindsight, I thought we should all have refrained from too direct and frank language, especially during Ramadan. Shouldn’t we? If we had indeed taken the time we should to improve our relationship we God and people, we should all have been able to take disagreement and criticism more positively. That would have been evidence of our inner growth during the holy month. No, I don’t want to generalize from it; I just want to mention that we can all do better, always, during Ramadan and at any other time.

A few days ago, the legendary, world famous social worker Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi (88) passed away. He was a role model for all of us, for people of any faith, creed and cradle anywhere in the world. Pakistan has become greater thanks to Edhi’s example and his long and compassionate lifelong work.

Yesterday, I spoke with a Pakistani from Swat. He was deeply impressed by Edhi and the network for ambulances and more he had managed to establish. My acquaintance from Swat told me that Edhi wanted to build a welfare state in Pakistan, maybe even with inspiration and ideals from Marxism, which was a common source a generation or two ago. Edhi’s ideals were universal; they were truly Islamic, too. But they could probably as well have been Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist. They belonged to any religion, or they could simply be seen as humanistic and highly ethical and moral values, within and beyond any religion.

We are all humbled when ordinary people, whom we can identify with, become such extraordinary human beings. Edhi seems to have been a giant who walked on this earth. I am sure he wasn’t faultless, but that doesn’t change his greatness.

It is important to have role models and ideals, and it is important to realize that seemingly quite ordinary people have deep thoughts about what it is to be a good human being. My acquaintance from Swat is one such human being, and for what I know, he may do unique and great things, too. Whether he had learnt more during Ramadan this year than I and my seminar friends had, I don’t know. But I know that he had the right values that I could listen to and learn from - yes any time of the year, in any valley, lowland field, mountain station, town, coastal or inland city – in the Pakistan, Norway, or anywhere else.

This week, I was impressed by President Barak Obama, too, indeed his press conference held in Warsaw in Poland as he had cut short his attendance in the NATO summit there. Instead he spoke about issues related to the police shootings and killings in Dallas, Texas in USA, and about many existential issues that concern all human beings, indeed issues related to race and other inequality aspects – when we all do know that in God’s land we are all equally valuable and unique.

A few days later, Obama continued his role as ‘Comforter in-chief’ at the large memorial event in Dallas. I was also impressed by the words spoken by several of the other dignitaries at the event, including former President George W. Bush. We may disagree with many of the leaders’ political actions in the past and present, some of them affecting us in Pakistan, too. But in the end and at times, even the most powerful leaders may feel the same grief and powerlessness as the most ordinary person, even as a humble and humiliated beggar. We may stand equally powerless and afraid when senseless man-made and natural tragedies strike. The speeches showed some of this powerlessness even in the most powerful.

Obama said that we must all look in ourselves to see what we can do better and differently, not only blame others. That is a religious and moral way of thinking, and few leaders speak like that nowadays. I believe it is indeed important. At the same time, we must search for political and practical solutions, so that tragedies don’t happen again or, at least, that they become rarer. The foundations for political solutions, though, are deeper than politics, than bureaucratic, military and law-and-order measures.

In the time we live in, with over-emphasis on technocratic thinking and ‘solutions’, it is important that we have yearly seasons like Ramadan, a full month of reflection, of doing good and trying to become better.

It is a God’s gift that we have people like Aksel Braanen Sterri, who can make us begin to reflect and think, based on religion or just the inbuilt conscience about fairness and doing good, which is in every human being.

It is a God’s gift that we have been given the opportunity to live in a land with people like Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi. We have enjoyed the direct fruits of his social and political work, and we have been inspired by his compassion and care for humanity.

It is a God’s gift that Barak Obama gives speeches and holds press conferences where he talks about the deeper existential and religious issues behind politics. As we know well, politics often fall short of being ideal; it can even lead to wrong and negative outcomes for many people. Yet, politics is also the way we communally seek to improve the world we live in. Hence, we should discuss more and find better and fairer solutions to problems around us.

It is a God’s gift that each of us has the urge to do better for others and seek to become better human beings individually and together with others. Ramadan helps us on the way, every year. But many other things are also needed, every day, throughout the years we walk on this earth.