Empowers Participants to Become Agents of Peace
On July 30, 2016, Hyderabad welcomed 200 youth activists hailing from different ethnic and religious minorities from Tharparkar, Umarkot, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin, Thatta, Jamshoro, Larkana, Nawabshah and Karachi for a riveting dialogue on peace and interfaith harmony.
From local heroes to youth engagement, and the role of educational institutes in fostering interfaith peace, the dialogue provided participants ample opportunity to learn, debate, and reflect on issues of interfaith and role of youth in advancing the message of peace and harmony.
This project was conceived and executed by Rajesh Kumar, an alumnus of Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders program, as part of the State Department’s campaign on Days of Interreligious Youth Action (DIYA). Hailing from Hyderabad, Kumar had been an eye-witness to the all-embracing culture of the city towards people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Through his project “Interfaith Youth Dialogue and Festival (IYDF)” held in July 2016 in Hyderabad, he set out to foster interfaith harmony by engaging the youth and empowering them to become changemakers. He says, “We must not allow intolerance to thrive. Instead, we should teach our children peace and acceptance of diversity in the way we think, the way we live, as well as, the way we practice our different religions”.
This project was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U. S. Alumni Network (PUAN). All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to $5,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.
Helping Humanity: IYDF Blood Donation Drive
The “Interfaith Blood Donation Drive” aimed to discourage discrimination and breed a sense of goodwill and interfaith co-existence among the people of Hyderabad and Jamshoro. The blood donated at the Fatimid Foundation was adequately screened and donated to the Foundation.
Raheela Hassan, a doctor from Hyderabad, donated blood for the first time through this donation drive. She recalls the pain she felt as she saw the thalassemia patients at the hospital. “A young girl came over to me as I stood there and said ‘are you here to give me blood and save my life?’ That was when I realized how I could play a crucial role in helping her live a little.”
Interpreting Interfaith Harmony
With markers and papers spread out, Ayesha Amin tried to break down the meaning of interfaith harmony and peaceful co-existence for the students at the S.O.S. Village in Hyderabad. Taking cues from Amin’s explanation, the young students each drew their own definition of peace, harmony, and interfaith. For some, it was a house with two friends of different faiths living together, while for other it was a dove.
“We were apprehensive about how we would teach the kids about the complexities of the topic so they can draw around the theme of interfaith harmony. But little did we know, that it wouldn’t take many efforts. Instead, we underestimated their ability and intellect to understand the theme of the art activity,” says Amin.
Celebrating Diversity through Dialogue and Festival of Music
“To revive the all-embracing culture of Sindhi hospitality, youth has to take charge and have to engage in peace dialogues to promote interfaith harmony and co-existence,” said Rajesh Kumar as he welcomes 200 participants of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Bohri, and Bahai’ faiths to the IYDF in Hyderabad.
The event explored the role education, media, and society played in advancing the message of interfaith harmony. Javed Qazi, a columnist, said, “People should emulate the life of iconic social activist Abdul Sattar Edhi and learn how to serve humanity.”
The riveting dialogue was followed by an evening of Sufi music and Kathak dance that delivered the message of co-existence. The evening ended with all the participants pledging to work for peace and harmony across the globe.
Bahadur Qureshi adds,
“This project is a step towards a better world. One where humanity coexists with peace, tolerance, and diversity; for the first time did Hyderabad witness a huge audience discussing, learning and experiencing the different colors of our social spectrum, spreading radiance of love and longevity through panels, dances, poetry, and donations.”
Learn more about DIYA – IYDF here.