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Give Peace a Chance – Bridging the Gap between University and Madrassah Students

There are a number of misconceptions that students of religious seminaries (i.e. Madrassah or Madaris) and universities associate with each other. However, if observed closely, students who belong to both lines of education have more similarities than perceived. Still, unfortunately the focus on differences has led to a number of misunderstandings as a result of which both parties rarely interact with one another.

Mindful of the aforesaid, a group of students from South Punjab and another group from Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) decided to collaborate and use cricket as a tool to unite the two diverse groups. With the technical and financial support of PYCA, qualifying cricket matches were held regionally in the city of Multan and Muzaffarabad between different local teams belonging to Madaris and Universities.

This round shortlisted bright players from both schools of thought and two teams of top performers from Multan and Muzaffarabad respectively, were finalized for a final play-off in Islamabad. Both groups of students now had this unique opportunity of playing together for a cause (to ensure a victory for their city) and this rare chance of communicating with another. Moreover, since both regions are nearly 700 kilometers apart, the activity also helped in bridging the communication gap that lies between the students of Multan and AJK.

As Sheraz Kalim, one the beneficiaries of the project and a student of Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) Multan stated in his own words, “…before this event, I thought their (Madaris’ students) intellectual levels were low but now I feel they have a lot to offer. Once you talk to them, you realize that they are creative and are extremely talented.”

Qazi Siyaab Ahmed, a Madrassah student from AJK, while speaking to one of PYCA’s representative revealed in his words that he personally gained clarity on the stereotypes attached with university students and their perceptions about students from Madaris. He said, “…I always thought that university students considered us to be inferior but it doesn’t feel that way now. They treated us really well and were true role models.” 

Though the project reached out to about 100 young people directly, yet the foundation block put on this front will have long lasting results. Throughout the event both sides displayed an excellent team spirit and members from both teams admitted that their stereotypes had little to do with reality. Both the groups insisted on having more avenues for further interaction in future that clearly indicates that students from both schools of thought are willing to bridge the prevailing gaps.

To view the video report covering this activity, see this video: Give Peace a Chance.

Preserving Shiv’s Temple: An emblem of Hindus’ survival stretching back three millennia

Hindu TempleIn 1830 Raja of Jammu constructed a Shiv Temple as an act of devotion in a region that is today known as Chitti Gatti, Mansehra, KP. Little did he know back then that within the next few decades a new state called Pakistan would come into being and the site would have the distinction of being one of the oldest temples in the country. Moreover, back then it might also have been impossible to imagine that one day a group of Muslim students would work together to restore the site as a gesture of goodwill towards the local Hindu community.

In the year 2016 students of Hazara University launched this highly sustainable project. After receiving acknowledgment from PYCA, the students collaborated with the Ministry of Religious Affairs & Interfaith Harmony, Govt. of Pakistan and Directorate of Archaeology & Museums to complete the restoration work.

Mr. Tehmash Khan, the seed project lead, in an interview told PYCA that they initiated the project in order to raise awareness with regard to interfaith harmony in the region. He said, “…this project facilitated the region’s Hindu community so that devotees coming from within the country and abroad were in a position to pay homage and celebrate the annual Shivaratri Festival.”

Mr. Aslam Jay Pradesh, a Pandit at the temple while giving feedback said, “…we pray for Pakistan because of which we are living happily here. I am really grateful to all the people who have come here and those who initiated this project.” 

Activities such as cleaning, dis-tempering, painting, installation of dustbins, lighting etc. were completed so that the Hindu devotees coming from within the country and abroad were in a position to pay homage and celebrate the Annual Shivarastri Festival on a regular basis. The inaugural ceremony was attended by representatives from Hazara University, Government officials and Directorate of Archaeology & Museums along with students and clearly shows the appreciation of the initiative. The project reached out to a total of 480 community members including local community members, minorities, government representatives, university students and faculty members. 

To view the video report covering this activity, see this video: Preserving Shiv’s Temple.

Tu Bhi Shams, Mey Bhi Shams – A documentary on Sufi mystics of Multan and their message of peaceful co-existence

Multan has had the privilege of hosting a number of Sufi mystics. The mystics therefore, have played a significant role in the social development of Multan and the region around it. Without a shadow of doubt, it was to their mentoring that allowed Hindus and the Muslims to co-exist peacefully for a substantial period of time. However, during the past few decades the people seem to have forgotten the true essence of what was taught to their ancestors and the region once again from sectarian conflicts.

In a bid to stem the tide, students from Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU), Multan put an effort to produce a unique documentary titled “Tu Bhi Shams, Main Bhi Shams” (We are all light).The video highlighted the role of Sufi mystics in promotion of peace and tolerance in the region and featured both Shia and Sunni scholars. It was screened in three different locations and response of the audience showed visible change in attitudes and behaviors towards peace-building and co-existence among people from different sects and religions. With this initiative, this project reached out to more than 250 community members through screening of the documentary at different locations within the city of Multan.

The BZU students are of the opinion that now they have hands on experience and are in a position where they can deliver such initiatives on their own.

To view the video report covering this activity, see this video: Tu Bhi Shams, Mey Bhi Shams (English Version).

Peace Archives II – A theatre on peaceful co-existence for slum children

Karachi is known as the business hub of Pakistan and like most metropolitans, is home to a number of slums. Owing to a lack of basic facilities and opportunities, reports of people indulging in violence from these areas is pretty common. Therefore, there was a dire need to educate the population living in slums of Karachi. The idea was to mobilize them in a way that enables them to appreciate the significance of peaceful co-existence and understand how through mutual cooperation they can explore avenues for peaceful development.

Stage

Mindful of the situation, students from the University of Karachi collaborated with a local theatre group called “Team Khwab” to produce a theatre play that aimed at educating the masses on topics such as peaceful co-existence and the benefits of mutual cooperation.

The initiative received an overwhelming response from the communities who attended these theatres with much interest. As one of the beneficiary along with her children said, “The activity taught us the significance of peaceful co-existence” and reveals the interest and enthusiasm from the local communities who attended the theatre and understood the message behind it.

With financial and technical support of PYCA, the initiative was taken to the slums of Bengali Para, Gulberg and Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Karachi and the response from the audience was overwhelming. Following the successful events the students were of the opinion that a change would only be possible through persistent effort and that they were now hopeful of organizing such events on a regular basis on their own. Through this initiative, reached out to more than 350 community members in the slums of Karachi. 

To view the video report covering this activity, see this video: Peace Archives. 

Blogging Weekend II – Social media awareness campaign in government schools

Internet today is no longer considered a luxury but a basic necessity that is required for professional survival. However, people living in various parts of Pakistan neither have the access nor the skill set to exploit the benefits that are on the offer in this regard. Furthermore, extremist groups despite being present on different social media platforms themselves have also played a part in promoting a negative image of this very important medium of communication.

Thank You PYCA

In an effort to raise awareness and to provide professional training to the deprived segment of the society, students of IM Sciences, Peshawar decided to conduct numerous day long training sessions with students of Government High School, Sufaid Dheri and Government Middle School, Academy Town in Peshawar. This PYCA sponsored initiative was titled as the “Blogging Weekend II” and the activity aimed at equipping the students with a basic understanding of the tool and providing them with knowledge of various other practices such as message dissection so that they had the capacity to counter online extremist propaganda.

This project capacitated 110 students and also provided desktop systems as a good will gesture for establishing a computer lab in the school with the hope of more students expanding their knowledge and skill set learnt through the project.

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