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January 12, 2020

Project to promote harmony, tolerance launched


January 12, 2020

LAHORE : A ceremony to launch a project titled “Harmonious, Tolerant and Safe Punjab” was organised by the Ministry of Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony in a private hotel on Saturday.

The ceremony held in collaboration with Youth Development Foundation (YDF) was attended by the people from different walks of life, including government officials, lawyers, media personnel, academics and youths, rights activists.

YDF Executive Director Shahid Rehmat shared with the audience that before launching the project a pre-consultation session was held under the leadership of Minister Ijaz Alam to devise a set of policy recommendations which were included to fix a certain employment criteria for clerics serving communities in mosques and seminaries situated in remote areas, remove lacunae in the curriculum that stand in the way of interfaith harmony, make the heroic role of non-Muslim Pakistanis part of the curriculum, introduce a law barring people to name mosques after sects and invite lawyers and bureaucrats to join consultation sessions under the project.

He said that the project was about the formulation of an interfaith harmony policy that provided a framework and guidelines on how to promote diversity and a sense of security and ownership for all in the province. It also aims to create an environment where people from different religious, ethnic, sects and linguistic backgrounds could co-exist without fear and contribute to the progress of the country. The project entails in-depth consultations with multiple stakeholders, including religious leaders, civil society representatives, youths, students and academia. They were asked to give suggestions and recommendations to be incorporated in the policy, he concluded.

Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine expressed the hope that the proposed policy would go a long way in making Punjab a home for all where they would enjoy equal rights and have a sense of security. He said the project fell very much in line with the spirit of the initiatives that the Punjab government had already taken to promote interfaith harmony in the province. He said that minorities were enjoying equal rights in the province and the government was highly vigilant when it came to safeguarding their right. Whenever there is a conflict or fear of conflict, the government comes into action immediately and handles the situation in the best possible way, he said.

The minister said the PTI government would ensure social justice and fair distribution of socio-economic resources in order to promote tolerance and co-existence in society and eliminate the sense of insecurity and injustice among the religious minorities

Alexander John Malik, bishop of Lahore, stressed the need for having an interfaith harmony policy that the policymakers and the citizens could follow to create a healthy and violence-free environment in society. It will be highly valuable document because of the collective wisdom going into it, he added.

Maulana Abdul Kabir Azad, Imam of Badshahi Masjid, said Islam is a religion of peace and forbids maltreatment of religious minorities.

Protection of their lives, property and honour is also the responsibility of a Muslim-majority state, he added.

Social activist Irfan Mufti and PTI MPA Saadia Sohail also spoke on the occasion and assured the audience of performing their proactive role in the promotion of interfaith harmony. At the end of the ceremony, the representatives of YDF presented a draft on harmonious, tolerant and safe Punjab to the minister for further process.

MNA Shahnila Rooth, Amarnaath Randhawa, Bishop Irfan Jameel and Peter Jacob were also present in the ceremony.

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