Atle Hetland At Starehe Boys Centre and School in Nairobi, Kenya, which is a top school for gifted orphans and wealthy fee-paying students, there is no Christian chapel, Hindu temple or Muslim mosque, Instead, there is a House of Prayer with all the symbols of the main religions in painted windows to be seen by the worshippers depending on the direction they look in the large room. And I think there is a forth window too, to include the worlds other religions, but with few or no members among the students and teachers at this school. I have visited Starehe several times, and the peacefulness of the prayer room makes it a true place of worship and spiritual reflection. In the Swahili language spoken in Kenya and the other East African countries, people often use the saying Mungi ni moja tu, which means God is only one. Perhaps, Starehe tries to inculcate this perspective in its students? And if they succeed, then the world will become a much better place for everyone. I wish we had had that kind of openness and tolerance in Norway, where I grew up just about 50 years ago - not so long ago, after all. That time, almost all of us were Christians and on top of it we belonged to the Church of Norway, the Protestant-Lutheran state church. It was common that the primary school teacher was herself an active Christian and a role model. She would not only teach Bible history and Christian moral values, but also conduct prayers and preach. Norway has religious freedom, and sometimes, there was a student or two who belonged to another denomination, but I cannot remember that anyone ever belonged to another religion altogether. Somehow, as children, we felt a bit sad for those who did not belong to the dominant religion, because they did not quite have what the rest of us had, and children are keen on sharing with others. The parents, teachers and community had all taught us what was the best religion, yes, the only religion. I am sure that there are some similarities to Pakistan in this historical glimpse from Norway, only that here the dominant religion is Islam, not Christianity. In Norway, we have in the recent several decades had a large net in-migration of immigrants and refugees, about half a million in all in a population just shy of five million. About 50 percent of the newcomers are from countries outside Europe. The majority belongs to Christianity, Protestants, as well as Catholics. About 130,000 are Muslims. Less than 10,000 are Hindus and an even smaller number belong to the Jewish faith. In the Norwegian cities, there is today greater religious diversity and more openness to other religions than ever before, including to other Christian denominations. Norwegians are slowly beginning to become multi-cultural and multi-religions. They discover that there are many good people and strong believers who belong to other religions and other denominations within Christianity. This is, however, only step one. The next step is to study and learn about the other denominations and religions, so that we can appreciate the other faith traditions, too. Then we can create true religious diversity. Yes, religious and cultural diversity, because so much of each religion and denomination has to do with culture, not only the religious aspects of dogma and doctrine, and the way we interpret the Scripture and organise our religious life. Obviously, there are differences in time and space, too, say between Catholicism among poor South American farmers and affluent city dwellers in New York in USA. And if we make comparisons over a couple of hundred years, especially in urban areas, we are likely to discover huge changes within the religion. To study other religions, and other denominations within own religion, requires deliberate efforts, resources and time. Openness is essential but knowledge is also needed. And I believe that through knowledge about other religions we will precisely become more open to other religions. If we dont have knowledge of the unknown, we cannot know if it is valuable. Openness to other religions does not mean that we should change our own religion, of course not. But it may sometimes lead to appreciation of certain aspects in other religions, and it may also lead to critical thinking about certain aspects in own religion. In other words, through studies of own religion and studies of other religions, our religious belief and spirituality is likely to become stronger. We will also discover the many similarities in the various religions. We will also learn that many religions have often gone astray in their practices, not because the religions had faults, but because the custodians of the religions, the religious and secular leaders, have made mistakes, and keep doing so. In this article, I use the term 'religious openness\\. I could probably have used the term 'inter-faith dialogue or 'ecumenical cooperation, but I find the term 'religious openness better because the fundamental aspect to learn about other religions is openness. Openness is also required to see things in new ways within own religion. Perhaps, we should talk about 'religious openness and tolerance. But then again, the word tolerance to me often means 'allowing to exist (on somebodys terms); it does not always mean that we have the full respect, and the open mind and heart that is required to learn from each other, to try to understand the other religion on its own terms. Recently, we had a sad episode in America, representing the opposite of religious openness, when Pastor Jones, I think a confused Christian, said he wanted to burn the Holy Quran, on this years observance of 9/11, apparently in order to try to stop the planned building of a Muslim Centre, with a prayer room, in New York in the vicinity of where the Twin Towers stood. Luckily, he did not go ahead with his planned demonstrative action. The incident has led to important discussions, including an important speech by the Imam in charge of the planning of the new Centre, Faisal Abdul Rauf. In addition, several major demonstrations have taken place in our part of the world, including in Afghanistan and in Srinagar. The Pastors proposal was outrageous. We should call for prayer meetings, provide counselling and help for people such as the Pastor, who has gone astray and is in need of help. If we not only express that we disagree, but also offer help, we stand a chance of achieving greater understanding between opposite opinions. It would require openness and goodwill by both parties, and maybe the Pastor and his flock would indeed change their minds. Through openness, dialogue and prayer we can move mountains. In my home country of Norway, and in my current host country of Pakistan, there is one dominant religion, Protestant Christianity and Sunni Islam, respectively. If true dialogue within and between religions shall be possible, everybody must show true openness and goodwill. Through learning from others, we will all become better. We will become better role models within own religion and in dealings with others. We will all realise what the students at Starehe in Nairobi have already realised, that Mungi ni muja tu, which means God is only one. We are all temporary servants in his garden. The garden can only become truly beautiful, the way it was meant to be, if we all work together. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist currently based in Islamabad. Email: