LAHORE       -             Minister for Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Ejaz Alam Augustine has said that the government would ensure social justice and fair distribution of resources that would help eliminating sense of insecurity and deprivation among religious minorities.

Speaking at launching of the project titled “Harmonious, Tolerant and Safe Punjab” at Royal Palm Golf and Country Club on Saturday, he said giving due rights to every citizen regardless of religion or faith would help promoting tolerance and mutual co-existence in the society.

Ministry of Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony launched the project in collaboration with Youth Development Foundation (YDF). Representatives from various walks of life including legislators, government officials, lawyers, media personnel, and academia, youth and rights activists attended simple but impressive ceremony.

The project is about the formulation of interfaith harmony policy that provides a framework and guidelines on how to promote diversity and a sense of security and ownership for all in the province. It also aims to create an environment where people from different religious, ethnic, sectoral and linguistic backgrounds can co-exist without fear and contribute to the progress of the country. The project entails in-depth consultations with multiple stakeholders including religious leaders, civil society representatives, youth, students and academia in which they will be asked to give suggestions and recommendations to be incorporated into the policy.

Ejaz Alam Augustine expressed hope that the proposed policy would go a long way in making Punjab a home for all where they would enjoy equal rights and have a sense of security. He said the project was very much in line with the spirit of the initiatives the Punjab government had already taken to promote interfaith harmony.

He said minorities were enjoying equal rights and the government was vigilant in safeguarding these rights. Whenever there was a conflict or fear of conflict, he said, the government intervene immediately and handle the situation. Shahid Rehmat, Executive Director, YDF, gave a brief introduction of the project. He shared with the audience that the federal government had devolved Ministry of Interfaith Harmony to provincial administrative units in April 2019 but the Punjab government had not yet come up with any concrete policy/guidelines for the newly devolved ministry. Under this project, he said, a comprehensive consultative exercise would be carried out with multiple stakeholders to devise a policy that could help the ministry pursue the objective of creating interfaith harmony.

Alexander John Malik, Bishop of Lahore, stressed the need for having an Interfaith Harmony Policy that the policymakers and the citizens could follow to create a healthy and violence-free environment in the society. It will be highly valuable document because of the collective wisdom going into it, he added.

There was unanimity among participants that all religions teach peace and forbid maltreatment of people of other beliefs. People of a country share equal responsibility, along with the state, of protection of lives, property and honor of all of its citizens. MPA Saadia Suhail, social activist Irfan Mufti, Bishop Irfan Jameel, Hindu Community leader Amarnaath Randhawa, MNA Shunila Ruth and others also spoke on the occasion.

 

IQTIDAR GILANI