11/17/2017, 16.10
PAKISTAN
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Interfaith conference of young people in Lahore for harmony and peace

by Shafique Khokhar

Called AAWAZ (Voice and Responsibility) programme, the event drew more than a hundred young people from 30 districts. Participants used games and exchanges to improve socialisation.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A group of about a hundred Christian, Muslim and Sikh young people met at the Ambassador Hotel in Lahore on 13-14 November for the AAWAQ (Voice and Responsibility) programme, a gathering designed to promote peace and coexistence in Pakistan.

“Despite having different faiths, castes, cultures, colours and languages we are one nation and have to raise our voices [to defend] our rights and justice in Pakistan,” said one of the promoters of the conference, Irfan Mufti, a former director of the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK).

"We want the young people of Pakistan to work enthusiastically for the promotion of peace, togetherness, human rights and equality so that we can become a developed nation,” he added.

Participants came from 30 districts in Punjab province. In five years of activity, the AAWAZ Programme has promoted peace and harmony in the country through the education of young people in 45 districts of the province.

On 13 November, participants played the "shoe exchange game," a way to make them feel closer and share their educational experiences, ending with people drawing their feelings on paper and the drawings eventually pasted on the wall.

The following day, some of the organisers and participants addressed the gathering.

"I do not want to talk about our shortcomings but about strengths and achievements as a nation,” Mufti said.

“Despite its limited resources, Pakistan is rising among developing countries. Its annual growth rate is 4.5 per cent, whilst Punjab's rate is 8 per cent. Over the last 70 years, the population has increased rapidly. Its literacy rate has increased from 16.4 per cent to 65 per cent. In 1947, its economy was US$ 30 billion; today it is US$ 350 billion.”

However, "It is a pity that our state has done nothing in [terms of] human resources,” he bemoaned. “Our citizens will not be able to participate in [the development of] the nation until the state invests in human resources."

Sania Bibi, a young woman from a poor family, also spoke at the conference. Because of her background, “I could not continue to study and my parents wanted me to drop out of school. But I told them they could never kill my dream of learning."

So, she started to drive a small auto rickshaw in her village, and now, with her earnings, she is able to maintain her family and pursue her studies.

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