LAHORE - The Centre for Public Policy and Governance at the Forman Christian College held a seminar in connection with the UN interfaith harmony week on “Designing a framework for Peace Education in a Pluralist Society”.
The purpose of the seminar was to hash out ideas on how to deconstruct stereotypes in a post 9/11 world, to create deeper understanding of all people and a society that celebrates unity in diversity. Dr Amineh Hoti, a member of the UK Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, was the keynote speaker at the seminar, along with FC Department of Religious Studies Chairperson Dr Hafiz Abdul Ghani and Naulakha Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Dr Majid Abel. Dr Hoti gave an anthropological perspective on the issue of creating the ‘other’ and the creation and bastardisation of stereotypes that become counter-productive to peaceful co-existence in society. “This creates a need to try and understand people who are different from us and observe their culture, traditions, values and beliefs with an open mind,” she said.
Dr Hoti shared her experience of trying to grapple with Muslim stereotypes in the west. She said it was unfortunate that Pakistan did not have non-government women’s universities or major interfaith organisations that had made a significant difference in the country. “People view higher education as a ticket abroad. They study with the intention to make money, and you have a society that values doctors and finance majors, but refuses to study social sciences, as a result we struggle with social myopia,” she said.
Dr Ghani discussed the need for creating ‘unity in diversity’ instead of the American ‘melting-pot’ model that had glossed over diversity instead of celebrating it. He said society must go through four phases in dealing with diversity: denial, defensive attitudes, tolerance and celebration of diversity. He said Pakistan’s education system needs to be revised completely to incorporate ideas and values that are necessary to survive in the 21st century. He said the importance of synergy, global citizenship, and celebration of differences, were key values that should cut across education levels and the urban-rural divide. He said all stakeholders must formulate courses for schools, colleges, madrassahs and universities that would help students view themselves in a broader setting, as citizens of the world. He said institutions should facilitate ethnic diversity and should be allowed to converse freely in their own languages, while English should be confined to the classroom.
Dr Abel shared his experiences as a Christian in a Muslim country, and said, “It is impossible to have an interfaith dialogue with the attitude that one’s faith is the absolute truth, it is important to respect what others have to say.”