G’wala youth vow to protect minorities at Peace Festival
GUJRANWALA – Bargad Organisation for Youth Development organised a two-day peace festival ‘Green for White’ at the Punjab Theatre in Gujranwala from Feb 24-25.
This peace festival was held in collaboration with Gujranwala Arts Council and the initiative was supported by Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.
“Green for White’ festival is Bargad’s peace campaign to protect minority rights and support point 9 of the National Action Plan: “End to religious extremism and protection of minorities will be ensured”. The purpose of this peace festival is to ensure equal citizenship rights for all minorities in Pakistan and create endurance for religious and other types of diversity in Pakistan, especially in Punjab.
The name of the campaign is derived from the two colours of the Pakistani flag, where green represents the majority and white represents the minorities. ‘Green for White’ is the majority standing up for the minorities.
The campaign started from Lahore where a similar festival was held after a month-long campaign with the local community and on social media. Its next stop was Gujranwala where Bargad held two trainings and trained 50 youths (25 girls and 25 boys) of Islamic and Christian belief on creating a more inclusive society in Gujranwala. These 50 peace champions then conducted 11 Peace Actions in their community like debate competitions, quiz competitions, focused group discussions and others.
Peace festival was graced by PTI MPA Nabeela Hakim Ali, president youth wing PML-Q Irfan Ihsan, president youth wing PML-N Gujranwala Waleed Asif Butt, President Private Schools Association Sajjad Masood Chishti, Vice Chairman National Peace Council Nadeem Murad Ali, Aroon Kumar, Pastor Nadeem Victor, Muhammad Israil, Nauman Ali Chadhury, Anisa Dar, PTV Anchor Taranjeet Singh and Executive Director Chanan Development Association Muhammad Shahzad Khan with their presence.
Addressing the audience on the occasion panellist MPA Nabila Hakim Ali said, “We need to amend laws to promote equal citizenship rights for minorities. Panellist Nadeem Victor said, “Diversity is beauty of democracy and when we start celebrating diversity in Pakistan it would be the first step towards peace building in the society.”
President Private Schools Association Sajjad Masood Chishti said, “We need to educate our children from early childhood in order to train them for tolerance and diversity. We need to question what the majority (green), has done for the minority (white). The majority needs to stand with the minority to help them feel safe.”
Taranjeet Singh addressed the audience and shared his experiences of how the minorities in Pakistan respected the Islamic beliefs and practices such as reducing the music volume at the call for prayer, abstaining from taking food openly during the month of Ramazan as a respect and greeting and celebrating Eid. He urged the youth to treat minorities with the same level of respect.
Muhammad Shahzadm addressing the boys in the audience, said right now they were the majority and the girls were the minority in the theatre hence, the girls hesitated to speak. Similar was the case with the religious minorities of the country. “We should not take undue liberties because we are in majority. Why are the minorities only considered for doing menial work or servant jobs? Why are they not given their due share of respect and rights? How come a non-Muslim cannot become a President or Prime Minister of Pakistan?”
At the end, a resolution was passed which was supported by the attending youth. The resolution says, “We will not use the term ‘Isayi’ for our fellow Christian citizens. We will use the term ‘Masihi’ as per their preference. We also stand in support of the National Action Plan point 9.”
At the closing ceremony these peace champions were awarded souvenirs for their accomplishments after they gave presentations of their work to an audience of 500 youths at the Punjab Theatre.
The event came to an end with a musical performance by Ruby Reshma, the daughter of the famous folk singer Madam Reshma.