It is easy, even in the midst of slow and lazy summer days to get absorbed in current affairs issues, some of them international, others local, concerning neighbouring countries or border regions. The latest terrible bomb explosions in Kabul and Lahore cast dark shadows over the cities, countries, and the world. I shall reflect on the tragedies and give some suggestions for what we can do; and I shall tell some everyday stories about Pakistani expatriates.

The latest explosions, happened just as I had given a talk about the sixth memorial event of the terrible terrorist attack in Oslo and at Utøya, Norway, on 22 July 2011. Seventy-seven innocent people, mostly youth lost their lives, and many more were physically and mentally scarred for the rest of their lives. The perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, now serving life imprisonment, is also a victim, as are all those who carry out such terrible attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

We must pray and work practically towards changing the culture of outsiders being able to live in our midst, being able to plan attacks from within. We must try to help the misguided youth so they will not commit crimes against fellow human beings, using religion or ideology as justification for it. We must search for and implement solutions, so that we can create a more peaceful and inclusive world. Then, such crimes will be fewer, maybe even entirely eradicated.

I am glad that the United Nations through its specialised agency, UNESCO, is repeating the international decade from 2000-2011, attempting to create a culture of peace and non-violence for the youth of the world. The current decade 2013-2022 builds on the excellent work of the previous decade. Nothing can be more important to focus on in our time. Alas, the money the world spends on active peace creation is a tiny fraction of what we in today’s world spend on the military, even with inexplicable large increases in military budgets.

UNESCO uses the term intercultural competences. They say we must learn to live peacefully together, in an increasingly interdependent world. “Having adequate knowledge about one’s cultural environment, receptive attitudes encouraging exchange, and specific skills to mobilise both knowledge and attitudes when interacting with diverse others, is an indispensable requirement for an open and respectful exchange of views”, writes UNESCO about its current peace decade. The organisation underlines what is in its constitution from 1945, that it shall contribute to building peace in the minds of men and women. It emphasises that exchange of knowledge and of people forms the basis for creating minds with friendly and peaceful attitudes. We learn to live peacefully together through living together. It is like swimming or sewing, we learn by doing it.

Today, it is important to realise that we can live in parallel cultures in the same street or village; we may look alike, but think differently and have different values. If we disagree, we must learn to talk and build some form of consensus, not detest each other and fight violently. Peace education is not something that only NGOs can do; peace education must be a central school subject and a theme in the work of all governments. Mass media has a key role; we must have constant campaigns that can make us all become better and live better together.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet some Pakistani expatriates in their home country. Mohammad Taufiq was one of them. He came with his wife Ayesha and their teenage daughters, Hajra, Khadija and Mariam, having a month away from the tourist flood in Venice, Italy, where Taufiq holds a senior post in UNESCO’s regional office for Europe. We were colleagues in Islamabad more than a decade ago, and since then, Taufiq has been in Iran for several years and in Venice for close to seven years. Soon, they have to decide where the girls will go to college or university and where the next posting shall be. Yes, international civil servants are modern-times’ nomads, a good life perhaps, but also a bit rootless, both for adults and children. On the other hand, the children learn respect and love for others through living with others. They – and the others – realize that we are all the same. The positive young girls, fluent in Persian and in Italian, and in Pashto and English, are indeed privileged and are already great ambassadors for Pakistan and the international world we live in.

Shiblee Kamal was also back home for the summer. He has lived in Norway for close to twenty years, This time, his wife and children could not come, but usually all come once a year. Shiblee holds a post as a senior engineer in Statoil in Stavanger, with frequent duties in Harstad in North Norway. He spoke at the breakfast gathering about music festivals in Norway, and it became clear that he had adopted love for his second homeland. He was particularly enthusiastic when he spoke about the indigenous Norwegians, the Sami people, who live in the four neighbouring countries in the far north, termed Nordkalotten, with the right to decide many local issues in their Sami Council. It was fascinating to listen to a sound track of a Sami woman singing a joik, the unique, traditional singing form of the Sami people.

Aisha Khan also attended the breakfast. She is of Pakistani heritage, but grew up in Kenya in the large Asian community there, and her parents still live in Eldoret in Kenya’s Rift Valley. She married her Pakistani husband and lived in Pakistan for many years until the family moved to Norway, where her husband works for Telenor. The daughter has even picked up the true accent of Norwegian, the mother said that people tell her. The boy, who is twelve, has also settled in well, but he is also glad to be back in Pakistan with cousins and other relatives.

These are just three stories about Pakistani expatriates among tens of thousands coming home during vacations. Several million Pakistanis work, study and live in other countries. They come home to visit, and relatives from home go abroad to visit them, and many millions emails, SMS messages and numerous phone calls and letters cross the seas. It is a fantastic people-to-people network; perhaps the real diplomats are not the few hundred working for the government but these expatriates. Not all is good abroad and not all is good at home; it is always a mixture, but what a great experience for those who have the opportunity to travel to other countries, and like what they do and earn well!

Pakistan is a diverse land. I started my article writing about tragic terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and one such attack in Norway, where it was a rare case. Then I drew attention to what we can do to reduce such tragedies, referring to UNESCO’s work, and towards the end, I reiterated some pleasant summer stories about Pakistani expatriates. In sum, I want us all to give more attention to positive issues in life. Even when there are tragedies, we should look for positive ways out of them. My three stories about Pakistani expatriates should make us all proud.

This year, the heat is quite bearable in Pakistan. Let the summer wind blow in our hair; let the discussions be light, yes, even substantive, but positive and hopeful. Let Trump’s and Sharif’s politics be what it is, and not something to talk about all the time. Soon enough the new school year begins for us all – and the parliamentary elections will be held in September in Norway. We need to be loaded with good feelings, great plans, and good summer memories. We need to have attitudes and skills to live with those that we don’t agree with. We are all in the same boat in a diverse world, and we should focus more on the small, everyday issue, where what each of us does and thinks, counts. The big issues have their own time and place.