Atle Hetland On this day, when Muslims all over the world gather with relatives and friends for the Eid feast, it is a special honour for me to wish the readers of my column, Eid Mubarak. Eid carries two main messages: a message of sacrifice and love for God, and, as important, a message of love for our fellow human beings. There is a religious message and a secular message. And the messages are universal, carrying fundamental concepts relevant to all human beings belonging to any religion or none. The universality of Eid is one reason why I, being a Christian from Norway, feel part of the Eid celebrations in Pakistan. Christianity does not have the same religious holiday, but the concepts are, indeed, part of Christianity. In addition, Christianity and Islam build on the Jewish faith. And all the three religions Holy Books have the text that is the basis for Eid, the story about Isaac who felt challenged to demonstrate that his love for God was above all, even above the love for his own son. In our modern world today, we may find the dramatic part of Isaacs story extreme, and we may even be uncomfortable with the use of the term sacrifice. At least in my Norwegian version of Christianity, the term sacrifice must not be used much beyond being a symbolic underlining of faith, of placing God before oneself, of placing fellow human beings before own interests the way parents would do with a child. In earlier times, sacrifice and pilgrimage were important elements in Christianity. Nidaros Cathedral, the largest church in all Scandinavia, situated in the city of Trondheim in central Norway, was a major destination for pilgrims, who often travelled on foot, from all over Europe to seek Gods forgiveness for sins and return home to do good and be symbols of faith and spirituality, the same way that we in the Muslim world today look up to people, who have done Haj and seek their wisdom and inspiration. This year, more than two million people from all over the world have travelled to the holy sites in Makkah in Saudi Arabia to do Haj. Some two 200,000 of them are from Pakistan. Each pilgrim will return home to family and daily life strengthened in faith and wisdom, endeavouring to be a better person in all ways. Leaving these important, sacred concepts aside, let us consider Eid-ul-Azha on a social level. As all religious feasts, Eid-ul-Azha has major social dimensions, too. Those aspects, in addition to the religious ones, are the other reasons for me finding Eid a beautiful feast, especially in Pakistanis, where a great sense of sharing still exists in family life and society at large. Foreigners and strangers are welcomed to take part, to share and be included in Eid events and at other times. We are invited to share a cup of tea, a plate of dal with roti, an elaborate meal, or simply just sit in the company of others. People in many wealthier countries can learn from the people of Pakistan, not least from the people in the northern areas, in Swat, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in the border areas with Afghanistan. What is it with those of us who have become rich on worldly, temporary items that make us less willing to share? Share time, company, knowledge and wealth? It is a contradiction that when we have so much, we should be in a better position to care for others, we just do the opposite. Both the Bible and the Quran say that we all have to answer for our actions, for having neglected to share with and care for the sick, the naked, the poor and the downtrodden. Of course, during Eid, we do share with our neighbour and the poor. May we remember to do so everyday, even when the TV channels have switched off their recording lights, as young people say today. Some years ago, I attended the New Years service in the Anglican Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya. The Archbishop preached and he made it a point, in that church of the countrys elite, to remind all that most of Kenyas corruption was carried out by Christians, since most Kenyans are Christians, and the majority of those in leadership posts are Christians, often Anglicans, the colonial powers religion. In Pakistan, a similar reminder could be directed to Muslims. I was myself working in a well-paid job for the United Nations that time, so I went scot-free, or so I thought at first. But then, did I share from the abundance I had? Did I love my neighbour as myself? No, I was, indeed, not better than the rest, I realised. And even if we are not rich on gold and silver, every person is unique, created in Gods image. Every person has something to give, maybe in particular the person who in humility does not think so. Recently, I spoke with a good friend from Kenya, now working in America, and I asked him if he was making good money. Yes, he said, he was doing well. But then he added a few words of wisdom: money can only give you pleasure if you can share what the money can buy with someone. None of us can take anything with us when our time is over on this earth. Money can certainly give comfort and security in life, and that is good. But in the end, we will all be remembered for what good we did, or tried to do, considering our means and opportunities. My Kenyan friend, having come from humble circumstances in a poor African country, having done well in this world, had not forgotten the basic moral principles in his home, probably taught by illiterate parents and villagers, not by teachers in the modern schools and workplaces. They knew that it gives blessing to live by the golden rule of doing onto others what we want others do onto us. And then humorous George added another story. He told me that outside Seattle in America, where he now lived, and where a good number of Norwegian immigrants had settled many decades ago, he had found a private parking lot, where the signboard read: Parking - only for Norwegians. Imagine, in America today, how many Norwegians would there be who needed reserved parking And, the morale: why would they need special treatment? Maybe this is how we too often behave: we look after ourselves, but we forget our neighbour. Jesus reminded his disciples that they should first feed the hungry, cloth the naked, care for the sick and look after the poor, and then, when all that was done, they should preach the Gospel. Yes, in that order, or, simultaneously. Then we become true Christians, true Muslims, true believers in God. Then our deeds not only help the needy. Our deeds become sermons. This years main Haj draws to a close. Calm settles on the holy sites in Makkah. The pilgrims return home. Today, we celebrate the first day of Eid-ul-Azha with family, friends and neighbours. We prepare to share of our abundance, or whatever we have. We contemplate and reflect. We all try, with Gods help, to become as good as we can. We will all do what we can today - and everyday - as per tradition and conviction, symbolising our empathy for others, especially the poor and less fortunate. And then, in the words of St Francis of Assisi: It is in giving, that we receive. It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned. It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life. Again, Eid Mubarak, dear reader. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist currently based in Islamabad. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com