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November 7, 2019

Students’ role crucial for promoting religious harmony: US cultural attaché


November 7, 2019

To bring about positive changes in society and create permanent and durable peace in the world, we need to promote the culture of dialogue and acceptance of difference of opinion. To achieve this goal, we have to build and promote religious harmony and students could play a very important role in this regard around the globe.

These views were expressed by the cultural attaché of the United States Consulate General in Karachi, Cameron Thomas-Shah, on Wednesday. Shah along with the political officer at US Consulate General, Anne Sackville-West, and Cultural Affairs Manager Ali Chauhan visited the University of Karachi and held an interactive dialogue session with faculty members and students of the Faculty of Islamic Learning.

According to a statement issued by the Karachi University, Shah said the religious harmony was necessary to meet and address the challenges like hate, violence, injustice and intolerance in societies. He said the truthful narrative must be spread around every corner of the world, and students, who were leaders of tomorrow, could put a true impact in promoting interfaith harmony.

The statement quoted him saying that the education institutions, particularly universities, should encourage the culture of dialogue among the students and faculty members so that they should understand the importance of listening and accepting other’s opinion and actively participate in promoting interfaith harmony.

Shah observed that universities could play a vital role in educating and advocating the idea of interfaith harmony as they were the nurseries that produce leaders of the future.

Anne Sackville-West informed the audience that she has joined the office in Karachi in May this year and since then she had been working closely with the people of Sindh. According to her, it gives her a better understanding of the province and its people and she had learned a lot about the diversity at the provincial level.

“I have studied Arabic to have a better understanding of the language which helps me in learning the fact that Islam is a very beautiful and deep and rich religion. It teaches about peace and harmony. I am interested in learning more about Islam.”

She asked the students and faculty members to hold open discussions. The US delegates encouraged students to apply for various academic programmes offered by American universities.

They observed that it would give Pakistani students an opportunity to learn and share new experiences and they would be able to spread the true narrative of Islam in the US.

They said that scholarships and exchange programmes were available and they were very good opportunities for students and faculty members.

They told the audience that the US and Pakistan were partners at different forums and the people of both countries should have a better mutual understanding about the two countries, and Pakistani students could play a very vital role in this regard.

Meanwhile, the assistant professor of the Department of Islamic Learning, Mufti Dr Umair Mahmood Siddiqui, informed the visitors that the Faculty of Islamic Learning regularly studied other religions and often paid visits to worship places of different religions.

“We have made sure that our students have good knowledge about various religions and that is why they visit worship places of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians and other religions, and we will be pleased if their religious leaders take out some time and visit Karachi University and different departments of the Faculty of Islamic Learning. We believe this step will boost the concept of interfaith harmony among the masses, particularly minority communities.”

Earlier, KU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi said that there is no doubt that Islam is a religion of peace. He further said that Islam has always given preference to humanity, equality, justice and harmony, and students who avail American scholarship programmes should present a true picture of Islam to the US people so that the misconception regarding the most peaceful religion could be eliminated from the minds of the people in the West.

English training

The US Consulate in Karachi welcomed 125 students to the two-year ‘English Access Microscholarship Program’ in Karachi, according to a statement issued by the American consulate.

This is part of the consulate’s ongoing $8 million investment to empower and educate young people in Sindh and Balochistan by providing professional development, leadership training and strong English language skills. Since 2006, the US Consulate in Karachi has sponsored English language programmes in Kotri, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Gwadar, Sukkur, Jacobabad, and Pishin for underprivileged students in those communities. As a result, these programmes have graduated more than 10,000 students in Sindh and Balochistan and they have made significant impacts in the lives of program participants, said the statement.

Addressing the students, Deputy Cultural Attaché Cameron Thomas-Shah said, “Year after year, we see how strong English skills build confidence and leadership capacities amongst our students. The thousands of alumni of US government English programs have gone on to do wonderful things to make Pakistan a stronger, safer, and more prosperous country. We hope that you will join their ranks.”

English Access Microscholarship recipients are high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom English represents a plethora of opportunities. The programme focuses on enhancing business communication skills to improve students’ employment and educational prospects, and, in many cases, their ability to support their families.

Alumni include educators, police officers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, and are making a difference in Sindh, Balochistan, and throughout Pakistan.