ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference on social cohesion and integration of non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan titled, ‘United for Promoting Peace and Interfaith Harmony’, unanimously decided that forceful conversion is not permitted in Islam and coercion in change of faith has no place in Shariah.
Representatives belonging to different faiths attended the conference, including, parliamentarians, academicians, scholars and noted personalities. The event was jointly organised by Bahria University, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, BARGAD and other relevant institutions. Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Senior Joint Secretary Ilyas Khan was chief guest on the occasion.
The participants agreed on promoting culture of tolerance, forbearance and acceptance of other religions in the society, stating that pluralism was the key to forming a vibrant society.
Participants stressed the need to eradicate hatred from society as it destroyed the social fabric of society. They said that the education policy should be revisited since hate material was found in abundance in the existing curriculum, thus polluting the minds of the youth.
The speakers also said that only continuity of democracy and instilling democratic values in the public would guarantee religious freedom be practiced in the country.
Other participants who spoke during the conference included Members of National Assembly (MNA) Asiya Nasir, Robina Khursheed Alam, Asfandyar Bhandara and Tara Singh, along with singer Ibrarul Haq, Mehar Dad, Sabiha Shaheen, and others.
MNA Shehryar Afridi read out a 21-point joint declaration, saying that the word ‘minority’ should be encouraged to promote interfaith harmony through cultural activities, arts, seminars, workshops, conferences and documentaries.
He said that all citizens, irrespective of their faith should be protected from harm and their properties safeguarded by the state. Minorities should have the right to practice their religion openly and should also exercise their right to employment sans discrimination.
Later, participants unanimously decided that religiously motivated hate speeches should be discouraged and persons found spreading hate should be penalised under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, by considering them crimes against the state.
In addition, it was also decided that heads of local governments should be given special powers to promote interfaith segregation and harmony.