09/22/2021, 16.58
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In Sahiwal, religions together for the International Day of Peace

by Shafique Khokhar

In a country shaken by the winds of extremism, 200 representatives of different groups and faiths celebrated together International Day of Peace. Activists fight the dominant “culture of hatred” by raising awareness.

Sahiwal (AsiaNews) – In a country like Pakistan, threatened by extremism and terrorism, like in neighbouring Afghanistan, there are people and organisations that are still clinging on “peacemakers”.

One of them is Voice for Justice International, a community-based organisation active in Pakistan that seeks to prevent acts of injustice and discrimination.

In order to mark the International Day of Peace (21 September), it renewed its commitment to defend the rights of the weakest.

At the Tehsil Council Hall in Sahiwal (north-eastern Pakistan), 200 representatives of various religious organisations and groups took part in the ceremony marking International Day of Peace, established by the United Nation in 1981 and celebrated every year.

“We work daily to strengthen pluralism in Pakistan in response to the prevailing culture of hatred and extremism,” said Ashiknaz Khokhar, a human rights activist. “Peace is a necessity which impacts everyone presently and in the future.”

Since the start of the year, scores of terror attacks have shaken the South Asian country. Just a few days ago, a checkpoint in southwestern Pakistan was targeted for the umpteenth time, taking the lives of three people and injuring 15 civilians.

For this reason, a mature civil consciousness is needed. “Without a doubt, laws are important, but awareness at the local and national levels is also necessary.”

In view of the situation, the Pakistani government has been criticised for not doing enough to condemn and stop acts of hatred and terror.

“Laws exist to discourage hate speech and promote religious tolerance, but unfortunately they are not enforced,” lamented Joseph Janssen of Voice for Justice International.

“Things will not improve until citizens stand up against political forces that use religion for political purposes,” he added.

For Janssen, while all religions preach non-violence, especially towards women, children, the elderly and minorities, women and children continue to die in Pakistan at the hands of extremists motivated by religious views.

Father Khalid Rashid Asi, Vicar General of the Diocese of Faisalabad, agrees, as does Father Zahid Augustine, who stresses the importance of the younger generations in the slow process that must lead the country towards peace and social harmony.

At the end of the ceremony, various individuals received awards for their work, significantly contributing to peace in their communities and among their people.

Among them are Father Khalid Rashid Asi and Prof Jalil Butt, engaged in raising awareness about civil rights, as well as Zahoor Ahmad and Sohail Shaukat among Muslims.

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