Puppeteers lead message of tolerance in Karachi’s Lyari


KARACHI: In the narrow alleys of Lyari in the city, children are learning about peace, love and interfaith tolerance from string puppets.

As the curtains open on stage, a narrator tells the story of “Sindbad the Sailor”, a hero of Middle Eastern origin and his journeys around the world in which he meets people of different faiths, languages and religions – who often do not have much tolerance for one another.

“A man is dying and you guys are talking about castes,” the protagonist puppet rebuked a fellow puppet who did not want to save a drowning marionette because it belonged to a lower caste.

“You should be ashamed calling yourself human beings. Humans save humanity not caste,” Sindbad says.

Writer Nouman Mehmood said the story came to mind when his group was conducting an education awareness campaign in some poor neighbourhoods in the city.

They noticed religious and ethnic antagonism in those neighbourhoods and decided to create a show to spread a message of peace, tolerance and harmony.

Pakistan has seen repeated attacks on churches, Hindu temples and Sufi shrines in recent years by terrorist groups. Madrasas are regularly blamed for radicalisation but they are often the only education available to millions of poor children, making alternative messages especially important.

“The basic thing is acceptance. You should have enough room to accept others regardless of whether he is a Christian, without considering he is a Hindu, without considering he is a Sikh,” Mehmood said.

Organised by Thespianz Theatre, the show plans to travel to other poor Karachi neighbourhoods and provinces after its run in Lyari.

“There is a message that we should not interfere with others’ religions. We should help each other,” said eighth-grade student Adul Rahim Arshad after watching the show.

“If one deceives us, we should not deceive him back. Instead, we should help him.”