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Untitled Document
Training Workshop
Mutual Dialogue as Way Forward to Achieve Social Harmony



Published: June 06, 2015


   

  

Participants and speakers in a national workshop, on social harmony, deliberated that social disharmony largely stem from societal attitudes, banking on misconceptions about each other. These misconceptions, they argued, can be erased by mutual dialogue, which serves as the first step in understanding each other.

 

The daylong workshop was organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think-tank, and conducted in three sessions, attended by around 30 young religious scholars of all Islamic sects and members of Sikh, Bahai, and Christian communities, from Northern Punjab, Islamabad, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Romana Bashir, a peace building activist, elaborated that the Constitution bestows equal citizenship upon all Pakistanis, irrespective of their religions, along with allowing them the “freedom to profess” their religions. Yet, she argues, such constitutional guarantees are not followed, making way for extremism.

At the same time, Romana pointed out, some constitutional clauses are seen as discriminatory towards minorities. She expressed reservation over Article 36, which calls for protecting “legitimate rights of minorities”, saying that words like “legitimate rights” automatically create spaces. Similarly, she argued that “oath statement” high officials take, also overlooks minorities. Restricting high offices along faith line, it is hinted that some has “upper hand” while others don’t.

Calling for including minorities in decision making, she argued it was because of their exclusion from the different committees working on the 18 th amendment, that the concerns of minorities were not properly addressed. Instead, a bar has been set that a minority member cannot become prime minister. Already, non-Muslims find it extremely difficult to rise to the top positions, she said.

Romana further shared that the contribution of non-Muslims in the foundation of Pakistan is completely ignored in our textbooks. “Hindus and Christians, of Pakistan, are indigenous to the country”, she stressed.

Professor Ayaz argued the contemporary “post-global” world, with increased interactions among people, call for “social harmony”. A community, majority in one place might, be minority at another place. In the absence of social harmony in one country, the fallout can be felt in other countries – and it has been so.

He argued that besides the country’s constitution, major religions, too, stress upon social justice and equality. In the medieval times, Professor Ayaz recalled, Muslims and non-Muslims generously shared knowledge with each other, to the ultimate advantage for human advancement. Professor Qibla called media to highlight examples of mutual harmony.

Khursheed Nadeem, television anchor, argued that achieving social harmony in the country is contingent upon addressing three challenges. The first challenge, he argued, is intellectual: what do we make of the religious interpretations that go against social harmony? The second, he argued, is the political one, which excludes minorities from nation building, manifested in the shape of Islamized laws. And the third challenge is social: how do we deal with the discrimination against minorities in our everyday lives?

To chart our response toward social harmony, he said, we need to discuss these three challenges. He recommended that dialogues should continue to take place.

Taking part in the discussion, Sahibzada Amanat Rasool that world over, including in the Muslim world, peace prevails despite differences among people. He argued that it has been because of the state playing a pro-active role in countries like UAE that sectarian and religious problems have not emerged.

Arguing that the situation in Pakistan is different, he argued that the state should step forward, in playing its role. Had Pakistani state played its role a decade or around ago, he reasoned, situation would have been different than today.


Dr. Raghib Naeemi reasoned we have to accept each other to live in the country peacefully. He argued that one of the reasons why social harmony is not attained is because of the game of accusations and counter-accusations against each other, even though religion warns against so.




Mufti Muhammad Zahid agreed, saying that all have to live together, with their different sectarian identities. It is therefore important that people accept each other; otherwise, he said, the ultimate losers will be everyone.

Mufti argued that if we have to move forward, we have to shun the sectarian-infested literature produced in the last two to three decades. Such literature, it was said, has no relevance in the future.


Saqib Akbar said that we should learn good things from the past, and learn the bad experiences out. If we discuss complicated issues of the society, he said, we will largely come out of the problems.

He asked students to patiently listen to each other’s argument and the logic within, thereby promoting peace in the process.

Speakers recommended that the attitude of scholars should be advisory, rather than reactionary. Appreciating PIPS’s workshop, they called for holding dialogue, at different levels. “We should keep talking to each other”, one said.

 

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