Pax Christi International award for 2016 goes to Pakistan’s National Commission of Justice and Peace
by Shafique Khokhar

Presented in Geneva, the award was shared by the NCJP and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. For 30 years, the Catholic association has promoted the protection of human rights, especially those of religious minorities. Its aims include child education, and textbooks without insults and intolerant comments.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – National Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan was awarded the Pax Christi International Peace Prize for 2016 along with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). The award ceremony took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 17 November.

The NCJP received the prize for its efforts in the field of human rights, in particular as they relate to religious minorities. In accepting the award, NCJP Executive Director Cecil Shane Chaudhry praised Pax Christi International for its support for marginalised religious minorities in international arena.

For Mr Chaudhry, this award is a recognition of all those “associated with and part of the 30-year struggle of the Commission, in particular, the students, community members, fellow human rights advocates and all those who have raised a voice for those who are unable to speak up for themselves, questioning social injustices and defending the rights of minority groups within Pakistan”. Hence, “I would like to thank them all for their support.”

At the same time, the NCJP executive director noted that Pakistan is facing numerous social issues such as peace, stability, ongoing war on terrorism or religious intolerance, which are isolating religious minorities.

He acknowledged the government’s efforts in favour of peace, security, protection and promotion of religious minorities. In this respect, the NCJP, he said, would continue to strive for a just and peaceful Pakistan, where all citizens, irrespective of their faith, are accorded equal rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Catholic leader further stressed the importance of understanding the root causes of the problems, such as a distorted view of history and hate material in the curriculum.

“Only when our children, who are the future of our country, are nurtured through their schooling, and textbooks are free from religious biases and hatred towards different communities based on their faith, only then will we be able to promote a society that respects the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity that Pakistan has to offer.”

Fr Bonnie Mendes, a social activist and a former NCJP executive secretary, believes that the Commission has "done heroic work for the last 30 years.” Its action “has always been difficult, but in the present circumstances it has become even more challenging.”

“The beauty of this work is that it [the commission] has never stepped back, even when it was threatened or had to face dangers in provinces like Baluchistan”. Its members “really deserve this award. [. . .] I wish them every success as they move forward."