Wednesday October 04, 2023

‘Dialogue key to interfaith harmony in Pakistan’

By our correspondents
April 29, 2016


To promote religious tolerance, harmony and co-existence among various religious groups, it is imperative to establish effective forums for interfaith discussions and take steps to safeguard not just the rights, but also lives of Pakistan’s religious minorities.

This was a point of consensus among prominent scholars and civil society activists who were speaking on the last day of a two-day workshop, titled ‘Role of teachers in social harmony and religious tolerance’, on Thursday. 

The Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based security think tank, had organised the workshop that was aimed at training teachers of university and post-graduate colleges of Sindh and Balochistan on measures to promote religious tolerance and curb militant tendencies.

Speaking about the discrimination non-Muslim communities face in Pakistan, Romana Bashir, a Christian rights activist, who also heads the Peace and Development Foundation, said our region was plagued by some of the most serious faith-based violence and discrimination. 

“Non-Muslims in Pakistan are extremely vulnerable and face the brunt of intolerance here,” she said. 

Citing reasons for the prevalence of such thinking, Romana highlighted the fact that our government school textbooks had completely overlooked the contribution of non-Muslims in the formation of Pakistan. Instead, she rightly pointed out, content that promotes divisions and bigotry had been inserted, leaving us to witness the unfortunate effects ourselves.

Similarly, she added, that non-Muslim Pakistanis were severely affected by a striking lack of adequate laws and policies pertaining to their welfare. Romana also called for an increase in seats reserved for religious minorities in parliament and enforcement of the five percent quota in its true spirit.

Prof Qibla Ayaz, former vice-chancellor of the University of Peshawar, said social disharmony largely stemmed from societal attitudes and false impressions about each other. “Teachers and religious clerics can help undo these misconceptions by encouraging dialogue, which serves as the first step in helping us better understand where the other is coming from and stands for.”

PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana, senior journalist Wusatullah Khan, A H Nayyar, former academic at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and Dr Khalid Ghous, a social scientist, also spoke at the event.