ISLAMABAD - In the light of Paigham-e-Pakistan, a tolerant society based on the principles of interfaith harmony can ensure social inclusion by providing all citizens equal opportunities to grow irrespective of religion or faith, according to speakers at a seminar on ‘Saiban-e-Pakistan for Social Inclusion’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday.

Speaking on the occasion, Romina Khursheed Alam, member of the National Assembly, said that ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’ provides us an umbrella (Saiban) to protect the country and the nation from all forms of extremism, hatred and use of violence against fellow Pakistanis.  ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’ rules out any form of terrorism and self-proclaimed acts of violence extremism in the name of religion. We are proud of Pakistan which presents a bouquet as Pakistani nation while its beautiful flowers are its people hailing from different religions and beliefs.

Dr Shafqat Munir, research fellow and head of resilient development programme, SDPI said social inclusion is about co-existence that means live and let live and it leads towards Interfaith harmony and builds a tolerant society. He said interfaith harmony is a way forward towards peace and prosperity from the growing socio-religious dissonance in line with the spirit of ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’. Inter-faith harmony is a conceivable condition, signifying peaceful co-existence among practitioners of various religious beliefs, aimed at eliminating the possibility of discord, violent or non-violent, he added calling for the need of respect for all citizens of Pakistan hailing from all religions. “No one should be discriminated on the basis of religion or belief as the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees equal rights for each citizen irrespective of religion or belief,” said Dr Shafqat. A representative from the Christian Studies Centre said the growing awareness on interfaith harmony and the urge for its realization exhibit our resolve at national level to get rid of hate and discrimination at all levels of society giving a confidence to our religious minorities to claim to be equal citizens of Pakistan. Interfaith harmony contributing to peace and prosperity would continue to remain a desirable objective.

Khursheed Nadeem, a noted Muslim Scholar, said to reach to a peaceful and tolerant society, Inter-faith dialogue is seen as an option.

The dynamics of Inter-faith dialogue are bound to be complex and difficult but doable. He said the interfaith dialogue means for the people belonging to different religions or to different groups of the same religion to behave warmly, discuss and debate the common matters and cooperate together without trying to impose their thoughts and beliefs upon other people.

Some people oppose the interfaith dialogue because they do not know what is intended with that. Interfaith dialogue is not an attempt of unifying the religions or producing a new religion by melting the religions in a pot.

Explaining further, Nadeem said the dialogue, is not a preaching activity. Dialogue is not an activity of making concessions. That is to say, engaging into a dialogue does not mean to negotiate or to seek for a compromise and concession. During a dialogue, parties should not mention things that would hurt the others; on the contrary, they should discuss common points, he added. It is regarded as obligatory to live all together in our globalized world which is becoming smaller rapidly and changing into a village and that the matter will definitely be the most significant issue of the next years. Therefore, this process must be quickened by more tolerance and dialogue attempts; nations and governments must be prepared for the future world.

Talking about some challenges confronting the interfaith harmony in Pakistan, Mehardad from Bahai community said that interfaith harmony cannot be achieved in Pakistan until we address some structural problems such as interpretation of religion, relationship between religion and politics, legitimacy/illegitimacy of violence, secured and friendly social inclusion.  He said peace and harmony in society cannot be restored unless we change and prepare ourselves for peace. We need to change our behaviour and attitude to restore peace and harmony. The representative from Hindu Community said Pakistan belongs to all those who are living in it including the minorities. In the past, religion was used as a tool to discriminate and commit violence against minorities in Pakistan.

Multiple misperceptions exist among followers of different religions about one another which should be removed by enhancing interaction and dialogue among religious communities. There is a need to celebrate commonalities among different religions, to understand others’ faith and acknowledge that ‘as it is’. The representative from Sikh community said there is a need to review and overhauling of educational curriculum and books to promote interfaith harmony to build on the national narrative of peace and social inclusion.