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Pakistan province fights prejudice against religious minorities

Project seeks to foster tolerance and harmony after a spate of attacks on religious minorities in Punjab

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Pakistan province fights prejudice against religious minorities

Shahid Rehmat, executive director of NGO Youth Development Foundation (left), with Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine at the launch of the Safe Punjab project Jan. 11 in Lahore, Pakistan. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry).

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The provincial ministry of minorities affairs this weekend launched the “Harmonious, Tolerant and Safe Punjab” campaign amid increasing religious persecution in the province.

The project involves the formulation of an Inter-Faith Harmony Policy on promoting diversity and harmony in Punjab, where Christians are the largest non-Muslim minority making up 2.6 percent of the province’s population of 110 million. 

“Christians are afraid of living in Muslim communities. Music is associated with kufr [infidelity]. The state-sponsored politics of religion has produced extremist splinter groups,” said Irfan Mufti, deputy director of South Asia Partnership Pakistan.

“The region is becoming a fortress of prejudice; more than 400 cases of religious persecution have been recorded since 2016. About 80 incidences of mob violence have occurred including
attacks on religious minorities. The assailants do not even apologize,” he said.

Mufti was speaking at the Jan. 11 launch ceremony chaired by the Minister for Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Ejaz Alam Augustine.

More than 300 people including government officials, lawyers, journalists, academics, youth and human rights activists attended.  

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