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First Religious Youth Service Project in Pakistan
an article by Marcus Younas

From October 12 - 19, 2012, around 80 youth leaders including staff, volunteers and participants from all provinces of Pakistan participated to spend a week as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural community engaged in various service learning activities and for provision of safe drinking water system and construction of toilets for the Hindu slum dwellers in Multan, Pakistan. They were also engaged in education, training, and building their capacities in the field of peacebuilding through reciprocal process of learning and sharing.



click on photo to enlarge

The program started with an introductory session including prayers and recitation from the holy books of Muslims, Christians and Hindus. The participants had self-introduction through sharing about themselves in brief. The main event started with a training workshop for youth leaders with the theme Struggle for Sustainable Peace and Interfaith Harmony. The workshop continued for 3 days from 13 – 15 October, 2012.

Following were the main facilitators and topics for the workshop:
Mr. Piya Ratna, RYS Director, Nepal; Session Topics: Introduction of UPF & Spiritual Values as a Foundation for Leadership.
Mr. Irfan Ali, United Religions Initiative, Islamabad: Session Topic: Dialectics of Social Justice in Pakistan
Mr. Ayub Sajid, Executive Director, Organization for Peace and Development: Session Topic: Role of Youth in Peacebuilding & Inter Faith Harmony
Mr. Robinder Singh: Sustainable Peace (Case Study)
Shahana Ahmad Shahi, Shemale Association of Pakistan: Problems of the Shemale Community in Pakistan

The RYS Pakistan Participants joined other young people in Pakistan and other parts of the world in holding a candlelight prayer vigil for the recovery of Malala Yousuf Zai. RYS Pakistan participants strongly condemned the act of violence by Taliban and demanded authorities to take necessary and immediate action against the culprits.

At the end of workshop a seminar was organized on “Promotion of Religious Tolerance, Peacebuilding and Social Harmony in context of the teachings of Religious Saints.

The participants of RYS Pakistan from different religions also paid an exposure visit to a Church, Hindu temple and Mosque as part of the RYS Project.

The Religious Youth Service Project participants from all parts of Pakistan also spent a day with school children in Khanewal. The participants played, sang, had fun, learned from each and had lunch with them too.

The purpose of the service segment was to help participants to socialize across boundaries of faith and culture and to experience volunteerism from a faith based community of educators, experts and youths. The service segment originally centered on the construction of 2 toilets and provision of safe drinking water supply system for a slum community in Multan City.

Lastly, Student Peace Festival was organized and students from different educational institutions were invited to present cultural programs including drama, songs, speeches and poster competition. More than 150 students participated in Student Peace Festival. The Festival also focused to develop and collect the recommendations of young people from across country to address the challenges to counter extremism.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?,

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This report was posted on January 21, 2013.