Pakistan: “Religious minorities should be ensured by the state” (Aila Gill)

by S. Sheeky, Pakistan

 Aila Gill works with the National Commission for Justice & Peace (NCJP) in Project “Democratic Education” for last three years as Program Organizer. She is also assisting a campaign for peace education with NCJP in seven dioceses of Pakistan-Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Hyderabad dioceses. S. Skeeky interviewed her.

Aila Gill in ihrem Büro in Pakistan (Foto: privat).

Aila Gill in her office in Pakistan (photo: private).

Does the spirituality and religion still matter in area where you launch projects? Because in a country like Pakistan, where does the violence that often see Christian and other minorities victimized by Muslim come from?

Aila Gill: Spirituality and religion still matters a lot particularly in remote areas where most of the people are illiterate and they consider Pakistan is an Islamic ideological state instead of a welfare state as per Quaid’s vision. Most of people think that religion is core of the state and state should perform its duty in the light of religion therefore minorities are not considered to be main streamed. Our society still needs to be more liberal and democratic although it will take time, but at least a determined effort needs to be done in this direction.

What kind of challenges, Christian community or Christian leaders face in day to day life, and implementation of their project? How ordinary people feel and live their faith nowadays?

Aila Gill: The biggest challenge Christian community or leaders face is religious discrimination due to their distinct faith; they face this discrimination either in the education system, work place or in constitution. Therefore ordinary people feel insecure or deprived from mainstream and sometimes they have to hide their identity as Christian just to avoid this discrimination. Discriminatory laws and their misuse is another major challenge for the community due to which incident of mob violence are increasing day by day e.g incident recently took place in khot Radha kishan, Joseph Colony, Desecration of Temple in Larkana and Hyderabad.

What initiatives you have taken to make the lives of Pakistani Christians better?

Aila Gill: We have taken the initiative of highlighting the issue of religious minorities and raising our voice of their solution in this regard NCJP has been working on different projects or campaigns to create awareness among the community. One recent example is Campaign for unbiased education through this campaign commission is highlighting the issue of hate material in textbooks as a result of the campaign commission has succeeded to incorporate role of religious minorities in development of Pakistan in textbooks of province of Punjab. These kind of positive steps will build the confidence of religious minorities.

Have you boosted friendly relations with Muslims through your activities? Or do you work for Christian community only?

Aila Gill: People from both communities participate in our activities and through these activities we provide them a forum to share their experience and insights over religious freedom and human rights as a result they pledge to promote interfaith harmony and friendly relations with each other. As far the parliamentarians are concerned now they are more aware on issues of religious minorities and all political parties pledge to protect the rights of religious minorities in their manifestos as well.

What results do you got from your work with communities having different faiths (according to your project Biased Education)? 

Aila Gill: A negative mindset has been changed regarding role of religious minorities in Pakistan movement. A decision made by the provincial textbooks boards Chairman in Punjab province to remove some lessons based on religious discrimination from text book for class X for the Urdu subject. In Balochistan the Chief Minister promised in his budget speech to remove the biases from the textbooks and to work for the minorities. A branch of a Private School in Lahore has taken the initiative to introduce a subject titled “Comparative Religion” which aims to educate children about different religions. Recently role of religious minorities, pictures of worship places and holy books of religious minorities has incorporated in textbooks which portray a picture of religious diversity.

What is your analysis on the political situation in Country?    

Aila Gill: Current political situation of Pakistan is in need of substantial change otherwise it will face serious consequences. The role of political parties is very crucial as all political parties should work and think collectively for the betterment of Pakistan. Problems related to Security and economy should be tackled given priorities. Our government should not compromise sovereignty of the state or national interest. Terrorism is one of the biggest challenges we are facing as nation so government with the consensus of all political parties should adopt a national security and counter terrorism policy and for the sustainability of regional peace state should review its foreign policy as well. All discriminatory clause of the constitution should be reviewed to stop exploitation of human rights, constitutional rights of religious minorities should be ensured by the state.

 

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