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 entitled, “Role of Youth in Peace building,” held in Multan on March 15, 2014, the panel of experts highlighted motivational skills for peace awareness, urged youth to accept followers of different faiths, think above school syllabi, and understand the true message of every religion. Youth Development Foundation (YDF)/Interfaith Youth in Action (IYA), kicked off the event by showing a grim slideshow of terror victims and buildings destroyed in terror attacks in recent years.
The program was a follow up to the diversity tour conducted this January in Multan where youth visited a historic mosque, a church, and temples. The tour program hosts visits to different places of worship where youth spend a whole day with religious communities and discuss the sites, traditions, symbols, history, and commonalities between faiths.
“Before the arrival of cable TV in 2001, my school-going daughter thought Hindus were 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,” said Akram Mirani, research officer, Minority Rights Commission.
“It has become difficult to talk about peace now and secular people are being targeted. Our society is seriously infected and an imminent cure is not possible,” added Mirani.
Mufti Abdul Qavi, president of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s religious wing, admitted that religion has become a flourishing business run by people “disguised” as religious. “[The] Qur’an encourages us to become friends with Ahl al-Kitab (members of divine religions),” said the religious scholar addressing 96 youth, including Muslims, Christians, and Hindus.
The speeches were followed by a Q&A session, which resulted in some quite heated debates on issues including religious discrimination and the war on terror.
In the view of Aakash Lal Karotia, 20, the biggest challenge for minority youth is finding employment. “[Employers] 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 for similar sessions. He shared, “more students need to be engaged. Our youth needs to study outside the box of religion and believe more than media analyses on national issues, especially terrorism. Beards and focus on physical appearances keep trending. We are getting short of moderates.”