Some estimate the Muslim population in Norway at around 150,000 people out of a total population of 4.8 million. In 1980 there were about 14,000. The vast majority of Muslims have arrived in Norway through immigration. By 2008, about 1,000 Norwegians had become Muslims, mainly as a result of marriage. It is possible that about 50,000 Muslims live in and around Oslo. Muslim immigration only started after World War II, but was not noticeable before 1970.
The first mosque was built in 1974 and today there are Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya mosques and also mosques related to specific ethnic groups coming from various countries. More than 80,000 Muslims are registered members of almost 100 Muslim congregations, but the Muslim community is not unified; it is highly fragmented. The mosques have been important places for members from minority ethnic groups to meet each other. Some mosques also run community projects. Most of the mosques in Norway were not originally built as traditional mosques, but are part of the regular city-buildings. The first mosque built especially for the purpose of Islamic worship was constructed in 1995, and it was the only one until 2005.
A Multicultural Society
Today, Norway appears, as the rest of Europe, as a multi-cultural society that is increasingly concerned with how to preserve its open society while faced with immigrant minorities enjoying access to their host countries but opposed to integrating with it. While maybe not even half of all immigrants are Muslim, the post-9/11 apprehensiveness about terrorism and the fall-out from the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed with a bomb as turban (reprinted in Norway), as well as the assassination of a Dutch filmmaker criticizing Islam’s treatment of women, has focused much of the public discourse on the subject of religion, and Muslims in particular. Secular but also Christians opinions are divided over the importance of freedom of speech in light of the sensitivity to Muslims’ religious feelings.
Christian Response in Norway
The vast majority of Norwegians are members of the Lutheran Church (over 80%) but relatively few are active members and many have beliefs which actually do not reflect Biblical faith. Possibly 225,000 Christians are in smaller denominations of several types. According to one poll, 32% of Norwegians indicated that “they believe there is a god/God,” whereas 47% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 17% responded that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force.”
Some churches have been ministering to Muslim communities for many years. There are several groups and churches with Farsi-speaking Christians, mostly immigrants from Iran. Unfortunately, there are not any significant Arabic-speaking groups gathering to worship. However, there are Arab Muslims who are coming to faith in the Messiah and being baptized. For several, following the Messiah has meant persecution from close friends and relatives. During Ramadan for the last few years there have been arranged interdenominational prayer meetings in several cities. Muslims who have found life in the Messiah have participated, bringing witness about life changing meetings with Jesus. In prayer meetings, Norwegian believers have heard believers from Iran telling about great revivals in their country. Seven thousand “30-Days” booklets were distributed in Norway last year. In addition, more groups than ever before gathered to pray.
Prayer Starters for Norway
- Pray for all the Christian individuals and churches reaching out to Muslims. For boldness and revelation of His will.
- Pray for all Muslim immigrants, that they will meet believers wherever they settle, and that these neighbours will show them Jesus. That Jesus will be their comfort and help in times of need.
- Pray that Jesus will be revealed in Norwegian society, in media and through the churches and believers.
Testimony from Norway
In the spring I arranged a faith exploration course with 12 participants, including newly arrived immigrants, both from Christian and Muslim backgrounds. It was an exciting experience. In June, one of them, a Muslim from the Middle East, was baptized. One other man is presently doing voluntary work in a local congregation. A third man from this group continued to study the Bible with me this past autumn. “Ali” clearly stated that he was a Muslim, however he had a lot of critical questions about Islam and he was eager to get to know more about Jesus. In November he came to one of our sessions, explaining why he was now ready follow Jesus. He was baptized two weeks later, deeply touching the members of the church. He explained his difficulties with Muslims locally and with his family back home because of his choice to follow the Messiah. Nevertheless, when I raised him up from the baptismal water, he threw himself around my neck, stating that the church is now his new family. His joy about his new life is greater than the loss of friends and family. Do we really understand what we possess in Jesus? May the Lord give us Muslim friends, neighbours and colleagues! When they meet Jesus, they will see life with new eyes. Let us continue to pray! It works!
Background Information on Norway (WorldFactbook)
Norway is a beautiful country in Northern Europe, bordering the North See and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Sweden. It is quite famous for the Vikings, although the era of Viking raids into Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity in AD. 994. Norway is about two-thirds mountains, has some 50,000 islands, is close to major shipping lanes and air routes in the North Atlantic and has one of the longest coastlines in the world. Theoretically, you can see the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) all over Norway. However, the best places are above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway. Norway is officially called Kongeriket Norge (The Kingdom of Norway). From late May to late July, the sun never completely descends beneath the horizon in areas north of the Arctic Circle (hence Norway’s description as the “Land of the Midnight Sun”), and the rest of the country experiences up to 20 hours of daylight per day. Conversely, from late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north, and daylight hours are very short in the rest of the country. National Geographic has listed the Norwegian fjords as the world’s top tourist attraction.
Economy of Norway
The country is richly endowed with natural resources – petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals – and is highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for nearly half of exports and over 30% of state revenue. Norway is the world’s third-largest gas exporter; its position as an oil exporter has slipped to seventh-largest as production has begun to decline. Norway opted to stay out of the EU during a referendum in November 1994; nonetheless, as a member of the European Economic Area, it contributes sizably to the EU budget. In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves almost all state revenue from the petroleum sector in a sovereign wealth fund.
Population: 4,722,701 (July 2013 est.) World rank #121
Life Expectancy at Birth: 80.44 years. World rank #27
Ethnic groups: Norwegian 94.4% (includes Sami, about 60,000), other European 3.6%, other 2%
Religions: Church of Norway 85.7%, Pentecostal 1%, Roman Catholic 1%, other Christian 2.4%, Muslim 1.8%, other 8.1%
Languages: Bokmal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities; note – Sami is official in six municipalities
School life expectancy. 18 years
Video: Sights and Sounds of Norway (3:37)