People learn from meeting other people. Yes, we also learn from listen stories, from reading books and newspapers. Today, I shall tell something about Norway’s emigration history, about Norwegian sailors and missionaries, and a bit more. I shall be able to tell much about the nine million overseas Pakistanis, but a bit about the more than 40,000 who have gone to Norway in the last fifty years, constituting an important, mature part of the 250,000 Muslims in Norway, and some 900,000 immigrants in a population of 5.3 million people. When the first Pakistanis came to Norway in 1969, they were the first one to settle there from a country far away. They began making Norway multi-cultural and multi-religious; both important positive contributions in the world we live in today.

If it were not for the immigrants, the population would have shrunk. Now, it grows slightly, also because people live longer, but immigrants quickly adjust to having few children in their new homeland. My stories about Norway are examples of current international people movements and contacts. I have skipped the Viking history of the Scandinavians a thousand years ago when they ‘ruled the seas of the North’, creating the Norse Empire; true, it was mostly stones, mountains and water, but with shipyards and cultural exchange, too.

When I grew up in Norway in the 1950s and 60s, we were curious about the outside world. My father was very interested in geography, which included climate and living conditions in other countries. As a game, he taught my younger brother to memorize the names of all the world’s capitals, and that became a fun game for them. And then it went on to names of mountains, lakes and other things. Norway had many sailors in those days, and many young men, and a few women, had contracts as crew on commercial cargo ships. Most families would have relatives who were sailors since Norway was one of the world’s main shipping nations; still it is.

Furthermore, from the 1850s, Norway was a significant sending country of Christian missionaries, especially to African countries, such as Madagascar and Cameron, but also to Latin-American and Asian countries, including the Santali Mission in India, and the Norwegian mission to Kobe in Japan, inter alia. When missionaries where on home leave, they would speak in the local congregations, and there were exhibitions of artefacts from the countries they served. The Government Film Lending Library (Statens Filmsentral) had films and slide presentations about the work of missionaries, which primary and secondary schools borrowed. I still remember this as an interesting window to the wider world when we were shown slides as a treat in the last lesson before the weekend; we should recall that this was before TV had become common.

About the missionaries, we were taught to think about them as carrying out sacrificial work. Women who were called to be missionaries usually remained single throughout life while the men were expected to be married. In many cases it was the husband who had the calling, but it was taken for granted that his wife joined him and assisted in his work. One aspect of this kind of life was that children were sent home to attend boarding school from the age of seven till fourteen. Often, parents did not see their children at all for all these years, and that was certainly a sacrifice for them; for most children, it was indeed a difficult childhood as they grew up without really knowing their parents and younger siblings, except for contact through letters. Today, there are few missionaries sent from the North to the South; as a matter of fact, there are now also preachers from the South going up North for shorter or longer postings.

The mission history of countries like Norway is certainly an interesting and important chapter in the country’s overall international history. Memoirs and other books have been written, and some research has been carried out. Better documented and studied is the history of the Norwegian emigrants who went to America, from 1825 to 1925, when over 800,000 Norwegians emigrated out of a population of less than two million that time. Most of them settled and did well in the ‘New World’, but about a quarter returned to Norway. Today, there are more people of Norwegian decent in America than in Norway, if one counts one out of four ancestors being of Norwegian background.

In my childhood, I remember that there was still contact between Norwegian-Americans and relatives ‘at home’, although the contact was waning, as people grew older and also because the new generations in America would no longer know Norwegian language; Norwegians would not know English that time, as they do today. Researchers and politicians have noted that in many ways ‘Norway exported its poverty’; relative to agricultural land and work opportunities, Norway was overpopulated and many people were poor. It could also be argued that the country was drained for labour and talent. There is a need for further research into these aspects as this may be of interest to understanding people movements today, and the positive and negative impact of overseas Pakistanis to the home country’s economy.

In the recent couple of week, a Norwegian researcher, Professor Kari Gttormsen Hempel from the University of Stavanger in Norway, visited Lahore, Gujrat and Islamabad. She has for years studied the Norwegian-Americans, mainly the period 1865-1925. Currently, she is comparing their history with that of the Pakistani-Norwegians since 1969. Through that, she is making the history of Norwegians in America useful to us today; the history of Pakistanis in Norway has many similarities to that of Norwegians in America, albeit the times and conditions are over a hundred apart. Dr. Hempel has in particular focused on religion; in America, immigrants were encouraged to change everything, but keep and be active in their religion and particular denomination. In Europe today, immigrants are expected to integrate and learn the language of the new country; they are not expected to change their religion. Yet, especially Muslims are often expected to tone down and change certain aspects of their religious traditions. In Norway, Muslims have over two hundred mosques, and they split and establish new congregations. The Norwegians in America were the same; they created many sub-groups of the Protestant-Lutheran church. I believe this makes the churches and mosques more active. Sometimes, they travel home to the country of origin and bring new ideas back. In America, Norwegian language, hymns and liturgy were used for several generations; in Norway, Urdu is not used much anymore; it is Norwegian and Arabic, and the latter is important to accommodate members from Somalia, Afghanistan, and immigrants and refugees from other countries.

I have not mentioned the importance of cricket, football and other sports in making countries outward-looking and respect others, also not trade, student and academic exchange, and more. My father was also interested in that, not only in teaching my younger brother the names of all the world’s capitals!