‘No country can make progress without granting religious freedom to citizens’


ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference, titled ‘Promotion of Interfaith Harmony and Coexistence in the light of Paigham-e-Pakistan’, on Wednesday unanimously decided that no country in the world can make progress without granting religious freedom to its citizens.

The seminar, organised by the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), was presided over by IIUI Rector Professor Dr Masoom Yasinzai. The event was also attended by Members of National Assembly (MNA) Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Asiya Nasir, Robina Khurshid Alam and prominent scholars belonging to the Hindu, Christian, Bhai, and Sikh communities.

Speaking at the seminar, the parliamentarians, representatives of civil society, academicians and policy makers unanimously stressed the need for reviewing the country’s educational policy and ensuring training of teachers and scholars to respect other religions and their sacred places, on the basis that Islam did not allow extremist practices.

Most speakers said that common faith centres should be established in different areas of the country to enable people to practice their religion with freedom.

Addressing the participants, MNA Rubina Khursheed Alam read out a joint declaration saying that it was a continuation of the Paigham-e-Pakistan resolution, adopted on May 26 this year during a national seminar on ‘Reconstruction of Pakistani Society in the Light of Mithaq-e-Madinah’, under the chairmanship of the president of Pakistan.

The joint declaration said that all citizens, irrespective of their faith should be ensured protection under the law and their rights, including right to property, education, family, faith, right to profess and freedom of religious practice, should be safeguarded.

The declaration further stated that every citizen had the right to employment sans discrimination. The religious sentiments of all the communities were important and should be supportive of each other, it added.

According to clause 16 of Mithaq-e-Madinah, all Muslim and non-Muslim citizens, should be treated with absolute equality. The declaration also mentioned that interfaith religious and theological differences should not be debated without strictly following the ethics of disagreement.

Meanwhile, speakers at the event said that interfaith dialogue was a legitimate tool for advancing harmony and co-existence, hence, it should be promoted as a policy for maintaining peace, harmony and co-existence in the society. Participants also said that lectures, seminars, speeches and conferences encouraging love mutual respect, harmony and cooperation with other religious communities should be promoted in the country.

Further, they demanded that religion based hate speeches should be discouraged and offenders should be penalised under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 by considering them crimes against state.

Speakers and participants at the seminar unanimously decided that the subject of interfaith harmony, tolerance and peaceful co-existence should be introduced as a compulsory subject in all primary and higher secondary schools of the country.

Moreover, they said there was a need to stress on religious scholars of all the faiths to promote nationalism, humanism, social cohesion and inter faith harmony in their respective religious gatherings on a weekly basis.

The above-mentioned declaration also stated that a corps of volunteers of peace should be raised by all religious communities to promote and protect social cohesion. It further stated that forceful conversion was not permitted in Islam and coercion in change of faith had no place in Shariah as well.