A modern , liberal and democratic Pakistan: the "mission" of Catholic activist Aila Gill
by Shafique Khokhar
As a political leader and social activist, the 26-year old aims to work for Christian communities and "marginalized" sectors and wants to "serve my country" . Collaborator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the young woman oversaw several projects in education, a sector that needs to be reformed . Safety, economy and terrorism priorities to be resolved.

Faisalabad ( AsiaNews) - As a future political leader among the benches of Parliament or an activist for human rights, her goal is to convey the suffering " of marginalized communities and sectors of Pakistani society" and at the same time, to "serve the my country. " Starting from a reform of the educational system that plays "a key role" in the creation of a "tolerant society" , because the seed of peace and coexistence must be sown within the schools . In this way "ethnic and sectarian harmony" must be promoted.  These are the clear ideas of the 26-year old Christian activist Aila Gill, who in the past three years has collaborated with the National Commission for Justice and Peace ( NCJP ) of the Catholic Church in Pakistan for the realization of the "Democratic Education"  project. Speaking to AsiaNews she described her recent commitment "even in the political sphere", providing detailed analysis on the social, administrative and governmental situations, published by national newspapers and magazines on paper and on-line.

The young activist Christian graduated from Queen Mary College, and the University of the Punjab. The young woman has remarkable communication skills, which have allowed her to participate in workshops and meetings focused on human rights as rapporteur , as well as having attended public events and general meetings led by NCJP or other national NGOs . For many young Pakistani Christians, she is a model of commitment and activism in the field of human rights and the promotion of peace . As an assistant, she has also promoted initiatives focusing on the theme of education in seven dioceses : Lahore, Faisalabad , Multan , Quetta, Rawalpindi , Karachi and Hyderabad.

Thanks to her work some of the many factors that are a source of division and hatred between different religious communities have been erased. AsiaNews wanted to meet her to know and tell of her commitment in a nation where Christians are an often persecuted minority, which in recent years has seen an exponential growth of violence and crime - usually of a religious / sectarian background - that goes hand in hand with a progressive social and economic impoverishment.

Interaction between people of different faiths, eradicating material that causes resentment or discrimination in textbooks , the promotion of peace and tolerance from the outset at schools are some of the points from which the young activist intends to start in order to create a better country. She has also met with obstacles and resistance from some religious leaders and extremist groups , nor has she received great support from the government and local authorities. And especially in rural and remote areas dominated by ignorance , illiteracy, superstition and religious extremism that considers Pakistan " a confessional state", and not secular, based on the well-being of citizens. However, she adds, this makes it even more important today to revive the vision of founder Ali Jinnah for a more " liberal and democratic" nation , although " it will take time before reaching this goal".

Speaking of the Christian community, the biggest challenge in every day life is the growing "discrimination" in the Constitution as much as in the education sector. Aila Gill adds, people " feel insecure or marginalized " from key roles. At the same time it is necessary to strengthen the initiatives and experiences of religious freedom and human rights and "all those activities designed to promote sectarian harmony and friendly relations". The activist points to the successes in her work, such as the removal of "discriminatory material " from the textbooks of schools of Punjab or major contributions to minorities in the province of Balochistan . In addition , a school in Lahore wanted to introduce a course on "Comparing religions" that aims to teach children the peculiarities of different religions.

When questioned about the possible birth of a Christian leadership in the country , the activist replied that " there are few prospects" because, while "courage and potential" abound there are still "few opportunities to really become involved" in the center of power. "I've seen the majority of young Christians - she adds - do their best to contribute to the growth of the community". Regarding the political landscape in the country, Gill feels it needs "substantial changes" : the parties should think and work "together" and solve priority problems, such as " security and the economy." Added to these is the plague of terrorism , the government must seek the support of the social partners and civil society and launch a national project of disarmament . Finally, she concludes, the cancellation of "all those discriminatory clauses " contained in the Constitution.