As this year’s Ramadan comes to an end, we can look back at an unusual month of fasting, a quieter and more peaceful time than other years, and in a few days we can celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Today is also Ascension Day when Christians and Muslims believe that Jesus, Issa, was taken up into heaven. In the Christian tradition, God exalted Jesus after his death during Easter. In Islam, Issa was neither crucified nor raised from the dead. According to the Quran, he was rather saved by Allah and raised to heaven – until his Second Coming, which is a belief in both Islam and Christianity, and also in the Baha’i religion.

During Ramadan, especially this year when people of all faiths, all over the world, have worried more than in normal times because of the corona pandemic, we may have come to see how much alike we all are: we worry and suffer the same way; we care for others; we hope and wish; we pray to God, yes, in ways which are very much alike in spite of different rituals and traditions. During Ramadan this year, we may all have felt more powerless and worried than usual, realising that we need God, more than usual. We follow advice by politicians and leaders, and then we leave it all in God’s hands.

In the last few days, the corona lockdown has been eased, appreciated by shoppers and shopkeepers, making Eid-ul-Fitr preparations similar to how they always are, hectic and busy, reminding us that the holy month is not only about sacrifice, reflection and prayer, but also about caring for our loved ones and the needy in our midst, including those who have been laid off from work or whose businesses have had to close down. This year, many of us may know somebody who has been directly affected by the pandemic. Also, to care for others means to put systems in place to serve people large-scale.

In my home country Norway, the Director-General of the National Institute of Health, Camilla Stoltenberg, MD, and her younger brother, Jens Stoltenberg, who is a former Prime Minister and now heading the North Atlantic Defence Alliance, said that something that worries them on a personal basis, is not as much that they themselves would fall sick, but that somebody they know would be taken ill or pass away. Many European countries are hard hit by the pandemic, more so than Pakistan, it seems. Norway is not badly hit, also because the oil-rich country could afford to enforce stern measures, financed by its savings, to support the private sector companies, employers who have had to close business temporarily, and employees sent on leave. Even the civil society, cultural and sports clubs have been helped to bridge the crisis time.

When the corona pandemic gets under more control, when a vaccine and treatment have been found, we will evaluate our preparedness for epidemics and pandemics, and other natural and manmade disasters. We will study the private as well as the government sectors, the civil society, the religious associations, and more. We will look at how the employers and the employees handled the crisis, and we will consider the need for better workers’ organisations and labour unions, and also organisations for the employers and company owners. We will study the role of education and media organisations in spreading information and creating awareness about the crisis. The capacity and role of the hospitals and the overall health sector will naturally be given special focus.

When crises and catastrophes happen, including the current corona pandemic, many social and existential issues arise – so we can say that we did our best. The role of religion is always important, especially in difficult times, including its social and diaconal aspects. This year, the time of fasting in Christianity and Islam fell during the recent months. The mosques and churches have been closed most of the time in order to avoid large gatherings. In many countries, such as during Easter, virtual religious services were broadcast on TV and Internet, reaching traditional believers and others who otherwise attend services more rarely. The different aspects of the response of the religious associations will be evaluated after the pandemic is over. I believe the increased use of modern media will be seen as a positive addition.

‘Did I do my best?’ is the title of my article today. I have drawn attention to religious as well as secular issues. I have had the Pakistan situation in mind, but I have also mentioned other countries, such as Norway, since the corona pandemic is global and we can learn from other countries when responding to it.

We must be able to say that we all did our best during and after the pandemic. To do our best is multifaceted, as I have tried to explain in my article today. Now at the end of Ramadan, Muslims in particular, but everyone else, too, ask if we did all do what we could, if we did our best, not always in a big way, but in small, everyday ways. Then we can indeed be able to say that we did our best. That is all we can do, even if we wish we could have done more. True, the term sounds a bit old-fashioned, but at the same time, it will always be modern. Because through doing our best we can live in peace with ourselves, with our fellow human beings and with God.

Dear reader, may I wish you a blessed Eid Mubarak.