Pakistan can take a leaf out of Belgium’s books to learn how they resolved sectarian conflicts that were very common in the country in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Belgium’s deputy head of mission Dr Stephane Mund recalled that when the conflicts began between the Catholics and Protestants - who fought several wars - the state and the church decided to deal with it through education. Dr Mund was speaking at a lecture on ‘Belgium, a country at the heart of Europe, a laboratory of the European construction’ at the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, on Thursday.
“Conflict and differences in Belgium do not, however, mean that we kill each other,” he clarified. “We talk to each other, find solutions through negotiations and resolve conflicts.” Belgium projects a model of peaceful coexistence and it never had strong military traditions, he said proudly.
Referring to their society, Dr Mund said a Belgian is born with a brick in his stomach, meaning they like to build houses. They also enjoy socialising, he added. He admitted that the European Union was not very popular these days given its slow growth, but he hoped it will become stronger in the future.
Belgium always promoted a stronger European Union and was in favour of a ‘United States of Europe’ but not at the cost of losing the national identities of European states, he clarified. “We are a nation of industrialists and traders, and when countries are involved in trade with each other, they do not fight,” he said. “The population of Belgium is 11 million, which is less than 0.2 percent of world’s population, but it is the world’s top 10 trading countries.”
Area Study Centre for Europe in-charge Dr Uzma Shujaat appreciated how Belgium overcame severe public debt and recovered its economy in recent years to emerge as a leading European market. In 1957, Belgium was one of the sixth founding members of the European Union. Ever since, it has always actively campaigned for the development of Europe, she added. Belgium also supports Pakistan’s inclusion in the new GSP + scheme, which will come into effect from January 2014, she said.
The lecture was attended by French consul-general Christain Ramage and University of Karachi Italian Philology professor Pietro Lauretta, along with a large number of students and faculty members.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2013.
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