Pakistan can be a challenging environment for people who wish to express their right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. The biased school system and curriculum, for example, are factors contributing to this environment, encouraging prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. Religious minorities face growing levels of violence, hatred and persecution. Together with our local partners, Mensen met een Missie aims to promote interfaith tolerance and unbiased education focusing on respect for diversity.
When the majority rules
More than 95% of Pakistan’s 190 million residents are Muslim. Hindus and Christians are the largest minority groups, each representing just 1.6% of the population. They hold a disadvantaged position in society from a social, political and economic perspective and are increasingly victims of mob violence, forced conversions and attacks. Levels of intolerance and prejudice against religious minorities are rising and are reinforced through the biased education system. National and provincial laws, such as the blasphemy law, increase the vulnerability of minorities. Furthermore, violent extremism by the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda and other armed groups continues to terrorise the country.
Alongside our local partners, Mensen met een Missie works in Pakistan to advance interfaith tolerance and promote unbiased education. We do this through:
Engaging stakeholders at all levels
We aid in forming District Action Committees (DACs), each consisting of various stakeholders, such as community leaders, students, teachers, lawyers, former parliamentarians and journalists from both majority and minority religious backgrounds. These stakeholders are trained in lobbying and advocacy, so that they can protect minority rights and promote interfaith tolerance and equal opportunities for all. The DACs are not only able to minimise conflict within their community, they also engage both educational institutions and government at various levels to take decisions and actions, promoting tolerance and providing a platform for minorities.
Reforming the education system
In engaging national and regional educational legislators and policymakers, we aim to promote unbiased education, especially in Punjab, the province where most minorities live. Together with external experts and academics, we have researched and analysed over 100 textbooks and produced a factsheet covering a national narrative on the quality and inclusiveness of education in the country. Educational agencies have used this research in developing a new curriculum. Our grassroots level activities include training teachers to promote tolerance and respect for diversity in the classroom, raising awareness of students and youth and engaging communities through public forums and media activities.
“It is their consistent effort for the reforms in the curriculum that we revamped our whole provincial curriculum accordingly.” – Dr Tahir Mahmood, director of the curriculum wing of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board
Together with our local partners, Mensen met een Missie has managed to:
- Encourage teachers in 15 schools to organise various actions in their schools to promote diversity and tolerance such as wall paintings and interfaith exchanges.
- Form three DACs, consisting of over 120 members, who have resolved at least four community conflicts, preventing religious violence escalating.
- Sensitise 8,546 people on discrimination of minorities and biased education through activities such as interactive seminars, peace literacy schools and public forums.
- Inform 1,533 students and 324 teachers on knowledge and sensitivity regarding the acceptance of diversity and the effectiveness of an impartial curriculum through teacher-student forums and interactive theatre screenings.
- Raise awareness among communities and the general public through media, messages on human rights and interfaith harmony, reaching 528,500 cable viewers and reaching 16,000 through TV and radio talk shows.
Our commitment in Pakistan to promote religious tolerance is part of the “Freedom of Religion and Belief” program (2018-2021) that Mensen met een Missie is implementing in Kenya, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Mensen met een missie
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