Granting equal status to all religions in primary and secondary schools is currently in debate in Norway as world religious leaders of Hindu and Jewish community have asked the respective authority to treat all major faiths equally in its schools.
US-based Hindu statesman Rajan Zed and prominent Jewish leader Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, in a joint statement, said that syllabus of subject “Christian knowledge and religious and ethical education”, taught in Norwegian primary and lower secondary schools, was firmly based in the majority religion and culture, thus resulting in minority faiths getting step-motherly treatment.
According to reports, under this religious education, approximately 55 per cent of the teaching hours are allocated to Christianity; about 25 per cent on Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religious diversity and views on life; and approximately 20 per cent on philosophy and ethics. This class is mandatory, without any exceptions for children of other religious groups.
According to Norway Education Act: Teaching in Religion and Ethics shall—provide a “thorough knowledge” of the Bible and Christianity…, provide a “thorough knowledge” of the Evangelical-Lutheran faith and of different Christian denominations, provide “knowledge” of other world religions and philosophies of life, promote understanding and respect for Christian and humanist values, and “promote understanding and respect”…”
Both the religious leaders further argued that offering equal treatment to each of the major world religions and faith would make the Norwegian schoolchildren well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Until new syllabus acceptable to major religions was formulated, alternatives should be provided to religious education currently taught in schools.
Registration requirement in Norway was also disadvantageous to certain minority religions/denominations and needed immediate revision, Zed and Freirich pointed out.
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that Norway should listen to Henrik Wergeland, one of its greatest poets, who wrote, “Every religion has a gentle and loving heart”, and fought for the weak.
Besides various Christian denominations, Norway has now a considerable population of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Humanist Association members, etc., including over six percent having “no religion”. Out of those belonging to majority Church of Norway, only about 10% attend church services more than once a month.
The country has an official Protestant State Church based on the Evangelical-Lutheran religion. Christianity came to Norway around 1000 and ultimately gained prominence over the gods of traditional Norse mythology and Sami nature worship.