07/12/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Faisalabad: young Christians and Muslims for social peace, starting with traffic

by Shafique Khokhar
About a hundred students took part in a symposium dedicated to social change, peace and harmony. Starting from the problem of traffic, the goal is to enhance social responsibility and promote greater education. From the new generations comes hope for change.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of high school and university students, both Christians and Muslims, attended a two-day symposium on a "Strategy and pedagogy for social transformation."

The event's aim is to change people's attitudes and overcome old social traditions and practices through initiatives that favour peace, harmony and respect for human life. The ultimate goal is to transform society, starting from the problems of everyday life.

The process of development cannot happen with "cosmetic touches"; it requires "radical and substantive" changes that focus on modernity, adapting it to Pakistan's cultural realities.

Held last Tuesday and Wednesday in Faisalabad (Punjab), the conference was organised by LEAP (Learn-Empower-Promote-Act), a Christian group, and Transparency Network (TNNP), a network of local NGOs, the event

In a society characterised by strong sectarian tensions, by repeated cases of abuse against minorities, by gender discrimination and violence against women, a small step towards change can start from a change in public life.

All citizens should contribute to this transformation, symposium promoters said, by acting "responsibly".

Former lawmaker, philosopher and social activist George Clement was one of the main speakers at the two-day conference.

He said that he relies on methods inspired by the philosophers and sages of ancient Greece as well as modern educators, adapted to the specific social context.

One of the first activities offered the students was regulating the city's chaotic traffic, spreading out to the main intersections and roads to regulate the flow of cars and motorcycles.

Local police and fire department top brass followed the youth in this new and exciting activity by showing how agents carry out their work.

Even in Pakistan, like in the rest of the world, road traffic is a major source of stress, anxiety and social unrest.

Just by looking at how people approach driving can result in a first, important cultural change since even highly educated people tend to be indifferent towards driving rules. Indeed, those who break the rules on purpose are generally considered more "clever" than others and worthy of esteem.

Through education, young people put themselves to the test and try to regulate traffic, assimilating and disseminating the concepts of "protection and security" and the need for personal discipline on public highways.

In the long run, it is hoped that the new generations will become "models of change", and enhance the principle of responsibility, inspire the rest of the people.

"This could be the first step towards social change and transformation for Pakistani citizens," a conference organiser said.

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