Pakistan: Extremism, biased syllabus and disassociation is derailing peace, experts say

Schreibunterricht mit Kreide und Minischiefertafel - Alltag in der Dorfschule Khipro in Sindh, Südpakistan. (Foto: Hartmut Schwarzbach/missio)

Schreibunterricht mit Kreide und Minischiefertafel – Alltag in der Dorfschule Khipro in Sindh, Südpakistan. (Foto: Hartmut Schwarzbach/missio)

Leading Human Rights activists have held twisted religious teachings and hate material in textbooks responsible for prevalent unrest in the country.

Incorporating the concept of religion in wars was the biggest mistake; the experts said “its effects won’t wear off easily”.

In a discussion program titled “Role of Youth in Peace building” organized March 22 2014 in Lahore, the panel of experts highlighted motivational skills for peace awareness, urged youth to accept followers of different faiths, think above school syllabus and understand the true message of every religion.

Youth Development Foundation YDF/ Interfaith Youth in Action organized the program as follow up of the diversity tour conducted last year in Lahore where youth visited a historic mosque, two churches and a gurdwara, the place of worship for Sikhs. The tour program hosts visits to different places of worship where youth spend a whole day with religious communities and discuss the site, faith traditions, symbols, history and commonalities of the particular faith.

“There are many reasons such messages do not reach grass root level. Young people are generally used as tokens in programs; they sit only as participants and are not involved in decision making. The history taught in our schools is distorted and thus only produces stereotypes. Also we have numerous channels but hardly a television program for youth”, said Imran Khan of Seeds of Peace, an NGO.

His comments resembled what a group of panelists briefed at a similar peace building program, also organized by YDF on March 15 in Multan city, more than 300 kilometers southwest of Lahore. The event kicked off by showing a grim slideshow of terror victims and buildings destroyed in terror attacks in recent years.

In view of Akram Mirani, Research Officer Minority Rights Commission, it has become difficult to talk about peace now and the secular people are being targeted.

“Before the arrival of cable TV in 2001, my school going daughter thought Hindus are demons. We grew up learning that our faiths will fade if we eat with non-Muslims. Similarly anti American and anti Indian slogans will not help us anymore. Our society is seriously infected and an imminent cure is not possible” said the research scholar.

Both programs concluded with Q/A session, some of them quiet heated on issues including religious discrimination and war on terror, and a candle lighting ceremony. All the participants, most of them first timers, appreciated the messages of peace and brotherhood and expressed their commitment to spread it further.

In view of Aakash Lal Karotia, one of the participants, the biggest challenge for minority youth is finding an employment. “They start asking questions once they realize we are Hindus”, he said.

“I saw a mosque for the first time during the diversity tour. I felt peace and serenity inside the domed structure. I wish our country had the same atmosphere”

Fyaz Siddiqui, a university student, agreed on the need of similar sessions. “More students need to be engaged, our youth need to study outside the box of religion and believe more than media analysis on national issues especially terrorism. Beards and focus on physical appearances keep trending. We are getting short of moderates”, he shared.

According to Jesuit Father Christian Troll, a research professor of Islamic studies, the sectarian posters, commonly seen on streets must be removed as a start. “They just make me sick. All they do is spread negativity. Youth must be self critical and more tolerant”, he said.

“Diversity must be seen as a source of inner enrichment and as long as it respects a common constitution Religious diversity can result in a prosperous, just and a harmonious society”.

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