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By Our Correspondent

The Express Tribune

Published Date: Nov 13, 2015

Building tolerance: Children need to be taught about coexistence: speakers

Legislators stress that there is a need to reform education system. PHOTO:

There is a need to develop an education system that teaches children about coexistence and educates them over the right to respect all religions and believes.

These views were shared among participants of the second meeting of Non Muslim Parliamentarians Caucus (NMPC) jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on Thursday. The meeting was convened to discuss a recently tabled legislation on ‘minority sensitive education’ drafted on the basis of research conducted by SDPI.

The NMPC convener of Mome Saleem, shared salient features of the Bill that was tabled by one of the members of the NMPC, Romina Khurshid, in the National Assembly. She added that the research highlights a need for accountability and mindset change at all levels. The bill proposes to establish a National Commission on Minority Education so that the education system can be made more responsive to the needs of minorities.

Khurshid, an MNA belonging to the Christian community, said that majority of the debates on rights and issues faced by religious minorities in Pakistan tend to focus on the misuse of blasphemy laws, while that issue cannot be ignored, there were many other problems that also need to be highlighted for example education and the issue of sensitisation of students and teachers to religious minorities.

SDPI Senior Researcher Ahmed Saleem said in his remarks that the education curricula needed to be made more inclusive for religious minorities, the sensitisation and training of school teachers was equally important.

A MNA, belonging to the Christian Community, Tariq Masih Gill added that we need to allocate more time for such discussions and debates and such meetings should be held more frequently to address these critical and often overlooked issues.

Another MNA from the Sikh community Ramesh Arora added that there was a major mindset problem with regards to how religious minorities were viewed in Pakistan. “There are always negative connotations associated with non-Muslims and these mindsets can be changed only if they are effectively addressed through enhanced sensitisation and familiarisation to minority communities through our education curriculum,” he said.

Executive Director SDPI Dr Abid Suleri, in his closing remarks said that division, disunity and splitting into different groups and sects was detrimental to the cause of sustainable development.