Sabir Michael Reports on his Educational and Academic Trip to UK of April 2002

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By grace of God like in the past I got an opportunity to go to United Kingdom. I was invited by International Interfaith Center which organized a conference on Religious Freedom on 6th and 7th April 2002 at Harris Manchester College Oxford UK. I mana

1. To participate in a conference on Religious Freedom organized by International Interfaith Center. 2. To visit organizations that is working for Minority's Rights and their development. 3. To do research work of M.Phil/Ph.D. in different libraries in UK. 4. To have an opportunity to have some tourism of beautiful United Kingdom. My first major activity in UK was to participate in a conference. Different National and International NGOs to discuss the phenomenon of Religious Freedom attended the conference. The main theme of the conference was that the Religious Freedom is Freedom of Belief and expressions. It has got connection with the legal and political environment and system of the particular state that determines how the people are capable to act upon their religious values and rituals. Religious Freedom is fundamental right of the masses that must be granted equally. The participants were of the view that there is strong need to promote interfaith and inter-religious social interaction within the Religious communities. The conference raised strong criticism against the French Religious discriminatory laws. I raised a point to promote social and religious harmony in the states relating it with the solo economic development of the under marginalized people. I suggested that there should be planned socio economic and developmental projects within the communities through the people's organizations focusing on the activities of social interaction within the different religious and minority groups. In the evening session of the conference I was allowed 20 minutes for my presentation in which I underlined the contents of my on going research and described the present situation of minorities focusing on socio economic aspects of their lives. The participants raised questions highlighting discrimination and prejudice within the Punjabi and Anglo community in Pakistan. The participants also noted isolation within the religious communities and minorities in Pakistan. Anyhow I replied their questions confidently and urged international organizations to pay attention towards the upliftment of the under marginal socio religious groups. In the conference the problem of minorities Relating to the Tibet and Sikh community were especially discussed. I got new ideas, new relations and contacts in this conference along with enhancement of my confidence. After the conference I came back to London from the Oxford and kept myself busy in my doctoral research work. I got a membership of British Library UK where I spent most of my time but also in the libraries of couple of other Universities including University of London etc. I was able to collect some research material that will prove helpful in my ongoing research work. I also visited some organizations, which are working for minority's rights and development. First of all I visited Minority Right Group. I shared my research with them grasped their ideas, methodology and collected some research material from them. Later I visited Amnesty International London with their research experts. I also got chance to visit Human Right unit of common Wealth and the Head of Political Division of Common Wealth Mr. Sharfudin and discussed with him about my research work and took his interview on the stand of Common Wealth towards minority and human rights with special reference to Pakistan. I also discussed the minority issue with the general public in the streets of London, which was really wonderful experience for me. I also participated in a budget session of The British Parliament as well as the on going session of House of Lords. This was really good experience for me. I also visited famous places of London, which include Height Park Corner Royal Palaces, British Museum etc. I went to visit couple of Islands in the countryside of UK with my friends over there. Which include Olive White Island and Swanage Island. This was fabulous experience for me. I also met with high officials of Catholic Church particularly Bishop of London. I also availed a chance to visit some projects of such organizations, which were working for the child rights and development. Mean while I continue to visit professional organizations of the social workers and couple of departments of social work of different Universities. I had also good experience and exposure with Sikh community based in London. I spent some time with Sikh organization called "Fateh." I was invited in their couple of temples to address the gathering on peace and International Religion. I found my presentations very good on the base of responses of the audience. I was also invited on local Sikh radio called "Sikh Sagar". I was allowed one hour to discuss my research activities, situation of minorities in Pakistan, peace and international religion and about my struggle to get higher education. I also answered live telephone calls during this one-hour live show. After the conference I came back to London where I first of all struggled to manage some persons who may be able to help me to walk around and to help me in my studies. Anyhow I got some support from Focolare movement London and they provided me the support of the personals occasionally. I got the membership of British Library for 5 years and continued my research work in British Library and Universities of London and collected some research materials. Similarly I visited some NGOs including Minority Right Group, Human Right Common Wealth Unit, Racial and Equality Commission UK and Catholic Charity for the Homeless Children etc. I also visited the representative of Pakistan in Common Wealth I also met with Head of Political Wing of Common Wealth Mr. Sharaf-U-Din. I collected some research materials from these organizations as well. Along with all this I visited the London off and on with my friends. I participated in the budget session of the British House of Common and also visited the Royal Palaces and other historical buildings and monuments. I also visited to islands with the purpose of tourism. During this stay I developed good relations with Sikh community in UK. I participated in their religious services and addressed the Public gathering in the two temples. I also gave two interviews on the sky satellite radio channel of the Sikh community called Sikh Sagar. In these interviews and addresses I spoke about the socio economic condition of minorities in sub-continent. And the need of socio religion and spiritual movement to peace and interfaith harmony. I could manage to get following achievements. ¨ I got new ideas about religious freedom and minority rights. ¨ I established and enhanced new contacts. ¨ I collected some research material that will be incorporated in my research thesis. I was lucky to find my old friends with whom I had good time and tourism in London. I got new vision and dimensions of social development after visiting the social development workers and organizations of UK that will help me to do some positive work in Pakistan. I felt boost in my confidence after this trip. I also captured real picture of life of UK and found that life is not easy there and this is better to make strong efforts to adjust and settle in socio economic environment of Pakistan rather than dreaming of first world countries. In this tour many people and organizations supported me I really want to thank Citizen Foundation who provided me support for managing airfare with the mediation role of Mrs.Tahira Khan of Beacon House School System. In this regard I also want to thank Bishop of Karachi, Franciscan Missionaries in Karachi and my friend Benjimen Paskal and Mr. Herman of Bible Society. Last but not least I want to thank to my close friend Malik Ghulam Fareed who lives in London provided me accommodation and all the rest expenditures. I also want to thank Focolare Movement London who provided me an individual during my research and to walk around in London. In the end I thanks to My God and wish that every good student may able to get such useful opportunities for career development.

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