Interfaith Seminar Urges Promotion of Dialogue


Group photo of participants in the seminar

Rawalpindi: A symposium on UN Millennium Development Goals was held in Rawalapindi under the auspices of Saba Aslam Education & Welfare Trust in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP).
Speakers representing various walks of life highlighted the development goals set by the UNDP under its Millennium Development Plan. They appreciated the goals set by the UNDP and suggested the inclusion of a number of other programs under these goals for a better achievement of the objectives.
Prominent among those who spoke on the occasion were the following: Mr. Saghir Aslam, Founder and Chairman of Saba Trust; Mr. J. Salik, ex-Federal Minister; Mr. Riaz Akhtar, representative of UNDP; Madam Nalan Bal, Managing Director of Khubaib Foundation from Turkey; Ch. Hussan Nawaz, ex-Director General Judicial Academy; Hamed Raza Afridi, National Project Manager UNDP; Mrs. Bushra Akbar, prominent social worker; Barister Jehangir Jadoon; Mr. Junaid Swati of Dya Trust; and Mr. Abdul Shakoor, Director of Wisdom House Education System.
The speakers shed light on various goals set by the UNDP including eradication of poverty and hunger, achievement of universal primary education, promotion of general equality and women empowerment, reduction in child mortality, importance of maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and enhancement of global partnership for development.
Mr. J. Salik, in his speech, stressed the need of promoting interfaith dialogue to create peace and harmony among different faiths to serve humanity, particularly that living in developing countries. Mr. Aslam has been practicing this regularly. He said character building is a prerequisite for real development and character building should be based on the divine messages revealed through holy books. He appreciated the hospitality of Saghir Aslam extended during his visit to the US. He also added that Mr. Saghir Aslam feels pleasure in working with the followers of all faiths irrespective of color, creed and nationality. He particularly mentioned the Saba Trust vision of reaching out and helping minorities such as Christians, Bahis, Hindus, Sikhs and others. Saba Trust works with everyone, Mr. J. Salik remarked. The Trust has no favorites and all are treated equally. He appreciated Mr Saghir Aslam’s services to humanity and said that he is a man of vision and great character. He compared Mr. Aslam with the well-known social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Ch. Hassan Nawaz, ex Director General Judicial Academy, called for inclusion of “Justice for all” as an important feature of the Millennium Development Goals. He said no development is possible without providing ‘quality justice’ to the people. He pointed out that we are losing our values and we should pay special attention to save these values as development alone cannot improve the image of a nation without moral values. He appreciated the efforts of Mr. Aslam in developing harmony and peace among different faiths. He said Mr. Aslam has been distributing clothes, food, medicine and other items to all faiths including Christians, the largest minority in Pakistan. He also acknowledged the interfaith conferences held under the auspices of the Saba Aslam Education & Welfare Trust, which has helped in building bridges between different faiths.
Hamed Raza Afridi, National Project Manager UNDP, emphasized the importance of Saba Trust’s work in different fields and was extremely impressed by Saba Trust’s prompt help to the quake victims after the October 8 earthquake and how the Trust worked strenuously to reach far flung areas with workers walking for miles to reach the remote villages.
Julius Ruffin, ex-Federal Minister and one of the Christian bishops with the largest congregation, complimented Saba Trust for its work. He particularly mentioned the distribution of hundreds of wheelchairs and food items to members of different faiths. He appeared extremely impressed with what Saba Trust has accomplished in interfaith work. Mr. Ruffin stated that when he found out that Saba Trust had set up computer labs for the Christian community in remote places like Skurdu he was extremely thrilled. This is called interfaith work and educating people in remote areas, he remarked.
Madam Nalan Bal. Managing Director Khubaib Foundation from Turkey, appreciated the UN Millennium goals and highlighted the schemes underway through her foundation in Pakistan. She said her foundation is educating prisoners, orphaned children and needy people and keeping them in proper environment.
Mr. Riaz Akhtar, representative of UNDP, spoke on gender justice and highlighted the salient features of the Musalihat Anjuman Project working towards this end. He was impressed by the Saba Trust’s micro credit program. He shared with the audience the success story of a local barber who was earning a meager sum of Rupees 1700. per month, which was way below the poverty level, and who was now earning Rupees 30,000 per month with net earning approximating Rupees 20,000. He was now able to provide jobs to three other persons, had a better salary than what he was earning earlier while working for some one else. “This is what I call eradicating poverty and helping the less fortunate (underprivileged),” said Raiz Akhtar.
Mr. Saghir Aslam, Founder and Chairman of the Saba Trust, in his brief remarks explained the aims and objectives of the seminar and said such discussions were very helpful in not only achieving the goals of development but also in providing a forum for setting new goals to serve the people in need. He also gave a brief resume of the activities of the Saba Aslam Education & Welfare Trust.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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