LAHORE: An interfaith NGO launched the second phase of its programme with the support of the Ministry of Human Rights and Minority Affairs at Minister’s Block on Tuesday.

YDF Executive Director Shahid Rehmat briefed the audience on the project’s activities and the challenges they faced saying that in the beginning of the camp, biases among certain people were so deep they would not even share a room but later as their friendship developed, they changed their perspectives.

He said the project would seek to bring together students of diverse backgrounds from the Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU), Multan, the University of Education, Multan, and M. Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan (MNSUAM), as well as religious educational institutes of all faiths and youth.

The project is called “Coming Together – ii” (Community Resilience, Peace building, Interfaith harmony).

The YDF has been working on interfaith harmony since 2010 to encourage and support youth engagement working towards a peaceful and diverse society, said Mr Rehmat.

“In these past nine years we have reached across and given new perspectives to around 12,000 young people in three provinces, and included with us 20 universities. In the first phase, we trained 300 youth, this time we will be taking on 500 young people to involve them in activities of peace building and community resilience.”

Provincial Minister HR&MA Ijaz Alam Augustine said the young people holds the key to the future of the country. “It is very important to communicate the message of peace, tolerance for other faiths, a celebration of diversity and community interaction with them,” he said.

“The concept of interfaith harmony achieved with the help of the youth is something that is viable and can bring about success. It will be promoted in all the major universities of Punjab and in this regard this project can prove to be a milestone.”

Mr Augustine added that through interaction of people from different sects and religions, they would enhance their exposure and visiting different places of worship increase their level of acceptance for each other.

The project was launched at the end of the ceremony.

Meanwhile, religious scholars including Allama Syed Gardaizi, Dr Mubashar Nadeem, Sohail Raza, Professor from University of Education Abdul Wahid, and several youth representatives spoke.

Sohail Raza from Minhaj-ul-Quran Interfaith wing said the youth was the majority of the population and they mattered for the future of the country.

Allama Gardaizi said the youth had always been central to every social, political and religious movement in history, and that it must be understood that differences in people are not necessarily a wrong thing in fact these differences must be accepted.

“Our society’s problem is that we tend to impose our views and beliefs upon the other,” he said. “If we all keep our own beliefs to ourselves, others will automatically respect us.”

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019

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