Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "Interreligious dialogue is of great importance in Pakistan: meetings between people of different religions are essential to overcome tensions and divisions, to eliminate violence, hatred and discrimination of caste, creed and religion in our society. Interreligious dialogue will help create a tolerant and peaceful civil society. It is very important that our government promotes this approach in schools and at all levels of society". This is what Fr. James Channan OP, Dominican priest and director of the “Peace Center” in Lahore, tells Fides. "Our current government – says Father Channan - has already made progress in this direction and must do much more to make our country peaceful and harmonious".
Father Channan recently spoke at a national conference on the future of interreligious relations in Pakistan, organized in Lahore by the “Center for Social Justice”, with the participation of civil society organizations, human rights advocates, lawyers, journalists, political representatives and leaders of religious minorities. Peter Jacob, Catholic and director of the "Center for Social Justice", stated that "to strengthen interreligious harmony in Pakistan, it is necessary to eliminate phenomena such as social intolerance, land grabbing, incitement to hatred, forced conversion of non-Muslim girls, which must be addressed with legislative, administrative and educational measures".
Jacob recalled the ruling of the Supreme Court of Pakistan of June 19, 2014 in which the institutions were invited to protect religious minorities, pointing out the need to apply it. Christians continue to call for a special bill on the prohibition of the forced conversion of women from religious minorities and on the protection of places of worship.
Syeda Mehnaz Hassan, pedagogue and social scientist, for her part has pointed out that "Pakistan is very rich in culture and history and in different religions", and has launched a call to "reinforce peace and harmony through a multicultural and multireligious approach in the educational process".
Sara Rizvi Jafree, a well-known sociologist, researcher and educator, noted "the complex relationship between the low socio-economic status of religious minorities in Pakistan and the high levels of religious intolerance".
Promoting inter-religious harmony, she said "is the first step to improve the situation of religious minorities in the country".
According to lawyer Saroop Ijaz, "equality of citizens is a precondition for any modern democracy that works. The future of interreligious relations depends on the recognition and respect of the principle of equality".
Qais Aslam, professor and economist, recalled that "the Constitution of Pakistan recognizes rights and equal opportunities for all, so it is necessary to respect the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, genders and religious beliefs, working to strengthen interreligious harmony for peaceful coexistence of people of all faiths in Pakistan". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/12/2021)