Speakers stress unity against forced conversion of religion

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Speakers belonging to different schools of religious thoughts here on Tuesday called for uniting against forceful conversion of religion as this national issue is spoiling the image of the country internationally.
Addressing a seminar on forceful conversions of religion organized by the Ministry of Interfaith Harmony, they said that all religions including Islam are against the concept of forceful conversion of religion unless anyone changes his religion by choice.
Expressing their views, Muslim scholars gave references from Quran and highlighted the teachings of Islam on conversion of religion by choice and rejected the concept of forcefully converting someone’s religious thoughts.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister in-charge of National Harmony, Dr Paul Bhatti said that forceful conversion is a sensitive issue and a barrier in building the relations on basis of interfaith harmony.
The purpose behind establishment of the Ministry of Interfaith Harmony, was to promote interfaith harmony at all levels and take along all religions for peace in the country. Talking about some reported cases of forceful conversions of young girls in Punjab and Sindh, he said “poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and social un-justice have been the salient characteristics of most of the victims for forced conversions.” Paul Bhatti said the aim of the seminar was to focus on the issue of forced conversion of people into other religions under duress, threat or for earthly gains or material greed. He said intellectuals, thinkers, philosophers and opinion makers of all major faiths are gathered to highlight the subject issue including legal experts from Ministry of Law and Justice, representatives from all relevant government organizations, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Human Rights, National Commission on Status of Women and Council of Islamic Ideology to give recommendations to resolve this issue.
Dr Paul urged the authorities concerned to review existing rules regarding forced conversion as the minority community feels insecure with prevailing set of rules and regulations and said legal experts can guide us for necessary adjustments for the purpose through competent authorities as per requirement. He stressed on the need to bring poor minority peasants into mainstream of economic and social uplift as a long term solution.
The minister assured to use his good offices at all forums in tune with the voices of oppressed ones, saying “I will even ask various public or private banks to offer small loans to the poor minority people to help establish them on strong footings.”
He said education brings positive change in the society, which should be imparted to every one, including minority citizens. The technical education appears more promising in this regard. He proposed to establish poly technical colleges in rural areas with special quota for minority community to create job opportunities and economic uplift of the oppressed classes of the society.
He called for including the respect of all religions in educational curriculum to make the children known from early age that every religion preaches peace and harmony and no faith teaches hatred and coercion.
“I have a plan to establish a big University for Arts and Religions at Islamabad for the first time, where all religions will be taught with equal respect. It will mark our beloved homeland Pakistan as the tolerant and peace loving country on the map of the world”, he stated.
The Minister urged the provincial and local governments and FATA administration to encourage employment of minority individuals in all public and private sectors, as the minority youth are even ambitious to joining the valiant defence forces.