Tolerant, inclusive society must for achieving sustainable peace

Speakers at seminar call for more dialogue rather than debate

Our Correspondent January 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A tolerant society based on the principles of interfaith harmony can ensure social inclusion by providing all of its citizens with equal opportunities to grow irrespective of their religion or faith in line with Paigham-e-Pakistan.

This was stated by speakers during a seminar on ‘Saiban-e-Pakistan for Social Inclusion’. The seminar had been organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Paigham-e-Pakistan on Friday.

The seminar was held a little over a year after it was introduced last year.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) National Assembly lawmaker Romina Khursheed Alam, said that ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’ provides us with an umbrella (Saiban) to protect the country and the nation from all forms of extremism, hatred and use of violence against fellow Pakistanis.

“Paigham-e-Pakistan rules out any form of terrorism and self-proclaimed acts of violent extremism in the name of religion. We are proud of a Pakistan which presents a bouquet … while its beautiful flowers are its people hailing from different religions and belief systems,” she said.

Dr Shafqat Munir, a research fellow and head of the resilient development programme at SDPI, said that social inclusion is about co-existence. It means living and letting others live and it leads towards interfaith harmony and builds a tolerant society.

Interfaith harmony, he emphasized, is a way to peace and prosperity from the growing socio-religious dissonance in line with the spirit of Paigham-e-Pakistan.

“Inter-faith harmony is a conceivable condition, signifying peaceful co-existence among practitioners of various religious beliefs, aimed at eliminating the possibility of discord, violent or non-violent,” he added

From the Christian Studies Centre, Fahmeeda Saleem said that raising awareness on interfaith harmony and the realization that it is a vital characteristic for the society is a concrete display of our resolve at the national level to get rid of hate and discrimination at all levels of society. In turn, this gives confidence to our religious minorities to be equal citizens.

Scholar Khursheed Nadeem said that interfaith dialogue is often considered an option to create a peaceful and tolerant society.

The dynamics of interfaith dialogue are complex and difficult, but doable, he said.

Nadeem elaborated that interfaith dialogue requires people hailing from different religions or from different groups of the same religion to behave warmly, discuss and debate common matters and cooperate without trying to impose their thoughts and beliefs upon others.

“Interfaith dialogue is not a ‘manazra’ (religious argument) rather, it is a way to listen to each other patiently as dialogue is not a debate to have a winner or loser.

Explaining further, Nadeem said that dialogues should not be considered as preaching activity or an activity of making concessions.

“Engaging in dialogue does not mean to negotiate or to seek for a compromise and concession.”

The scholar suggested that during dialogues, the parties involved should refrain from mentioning things which would hurt the feelings of others.

Instead, he suggested that the teaching methods practised at religious seminaries should be revisited, hinting that at the moment it is doing more to divide people into sects rather than uniting them or making them more tolerant.

Pointing to the system in other Islamic countries such as Turkey, Nadeem suggested that the government introduce regulatory mechanisms for religious seminaries.

Moreover, he called for making Paigham-e-Pakistan inclusive with the parliament, civil society and other stakeholders taking ownership.

Professor Mehardad, from Pakistan’s arguably smallest religious minority — the Baha’i — said that interfaith harmony cannot be achieved until some structural problems are addressed such as interpretation of religion, the relationship between religion and politics, the legitimacy and illegitimacy of violence, secured and friendly social inclusion.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2019.


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