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Wednesday December 08, 2021

Future of interfaith relations: Equality of citizenship must for democracy, says moot

November 24, 2021
Future of interfaith relations: Equality of citizenship must for democracy, says moot

LAHORE: Equality of citizenship is a precondition for any modern functioning democracy. Advocate Saroop Ijaz of Human Rights Watch observed this while speaking at the ‘National Conference on the Future of Interfaith Relations’ organised by Centre for Social Justice here on Tuesday.

He said the future of interfaith relations rests on acknowledging and ensuring equality. “Our laws need to be brought in line with constitutional and international law principles,” he added. The conference was largely attended by civil society organisations, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, political representatives and religious minority leadership.

Dr. Qais Aslam, Bushra Anjum Butt, Dr. Sara Rizvi Jafree, Dr. Syeda Mehnaz Hassan, Dr. Raana Malik, Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash, Peter Jacob, Bishop Azad Marshall and Fr. James Channan, were the speakers. They discussed impediments and way forward regarding the interfaith relations. Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash, a historian, emphasized on equality of rights and opportunities for all citizens for this has an equalising and stabilising effect on a society. Prof Dr. Qais Aslam said the Constitution of Pakistan recognizes right to equal opportunities for everyone.

Father James Channan, peace activist, called for implementing inter-faith policy in schools and at grassroots level. Bishop Azad Marshall, the moderator Bishop of the Church of Pakistan, stressed on learning from the successes achieved by Jamia Al-Azhar in Egypt and Friendship Centre under Abraham Accord in UAE. He underlined the importance of political will of the leadership to see beyond the manifestation, particularly the root causes of the stress in the communal relationships.

Dr. Sara Rizvi Jafree said: “There is a complex linear relationship between the low socio-economic status of religious minorities in Pakistan and high levels of religious intolerance. Addressing and improving tolerance through interfaith harmony is the first step forward to improving the status of religious minorities in the country”.

Dr. Syeda Mehnaz Hassan called for policy reforms. She said, “It is an obligation of the state to safeguard the remarkable religious histories and cultures of non-Muslims to provide them a strong and peaceful presence in Pakistan.”

Peter Jacob, the director of Centre for Social Justice said: "Social intolerance, land grabbing, hate speech and forced conversion of minorities which appears to be the chief causes, need to be addressed through legislative administrative and educational measures."

He called for ensuring implementation of the Supreme Court judgment of June 19, 2014 about protection of minorities’ rights, in letter and spirit. He demanded comprehensive legislataion for the prohibition of forced conversion.

He said the Sikh and Hindu Community must be given adequate representation and leadership in the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). The must be given opportunity to bring up the matters related to effective management of Gurdwaras, he said, adding it should be ensured that communal properties under the Evacuee Trust Property Board are not illegally transferred, encroached upon or sold to anyone.