Reaffirming our commitment to “Freedom of Religion and Belief” in Pakistan. By Rehman Anwer
15 Jan 2013
There are various views, understandings and uses of terminology around the concept of freedom of religion and belief, not only within religious traditions but also in the philosophical context. In a country like Pakistan, where religion is expressed in an intense manner and religious beliefs have a significant impact on the communities living there, it is important to create awareness about freedom of religion and its underlying philosophy.
Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right protected by a number of international treaties and declarations. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948 and article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Covenant protects freedom of thought on all matters and the freedom to manifest religion and belief individually or with others, in public or in private.
Owing to the contemporary climate of extremism in Pakistan, the key is to bring the faith communities together and make collective efforts to foster peace and stability. Numerous efforts are being made by civil society organizations in Pakistan to achieve this objective, but there also needs to be a consistent campaign across the country to promote a change in perceptions toward other religious groups. This change is necessary in order to remove societal barriers for religious diversity and national harmony.
Faith Matters, a conflict resolution and interfaith organization, has recently launched an interfaith project in Pakistan named, Musawaat (Equality) with an aim to promote interfaith harmony and the fundamental right of the freedom of religion and belief in Pakistan. The organization is carrying out a series of awareness raising workshops to train young people on the basic understanding of conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, identity and fundamental human rights. The organization’s strategy is to work with grass roots civil society organizations to arrange training workshops in areas with sizeable Christian communities, and areas where tensions have been observed in the past. These areas include Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan and their surrounding regions.