Faith in humanity by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Our beloved country holds a unique honour among nearly fifty Muslim majority countries due to the fact that it came in to existence on the basis of an ideology.The purpose of demanding a separate independent country was to demonstrate practically how all citizens, belonging to diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, could be allowed to play their due role in a Muslim-majority country for ensuring peace and prosperity in the society. Many Non-Muslims, including Jogendranath Mandal, were also active part of the Pakistan Movement, under the dynamic leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

However, it is quite unfortunate that today, after 73 years of independence, a sensitive issue related to Islamabad is resulting in hurting the religious sentiments of the followers of the largest minority community of Pakistan. I believe that all religions of the world are equally respectable, and the message of every faith is to serve humanity. And issues related to religious places of worship should be dealt with a careful approach. In my view, an irresponsible attitude has been seen on all sides regarding the proposed construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad. Similarly, the role of the religious ministry to handle this sensitive issue was quite hopeless and disappointing. In my view, all supporters and opponents of Islamabad temple are equally responsible for spoiling the good image of our beloved country.

I believe that now it is also a great test for the CCI to guide the nation towards the right direction — based on the peaceful teachings of the Prophet (pbuh), the Charter of Medina, the tolerant policies of past Muslim rulers, the prominent role of non-Muslim notables during the Pakistan movement and the constitution of Pakistan that guarantees equal civic rights to non-Muslim communities. Similarly, Quaid-e-Azam’s 11 August Speech also urged for the protection of the rights of minorities.

Ironically, despite unconditional loyalty, sacrifice and contributions for the betterment of Pakistan, it is becoming an unfortunate practice by some segments to neglect the country’s non-Muslim communities. Most recently, the death anniversary of Sir Ganga Ram, who is also the father of modern Lahore, went unnoticed on July 10. I am quite sure that today our new generation would have definitely recognized the Ganga Ram Hospital but they are unaware about the great personality of its founder.

Sir Ganga Ram, born in Sheikhupura in 1851, was an executive engineer by profession under the British rule. He is known as the man behind the construction of Model Town and various city buildings, including Lahore Museum, Aitchison College, Mayo School of Arts, High Court, GPO, Government College’s chemistry block and Mayo Hospital’s Albert Victor wing. Due to his philanthropist work, Sir Malcolm Hailey, the British governor of Punjab, had also lauded Sir Ganga Ram by saying that “He won like a hero and gave like a saint”.

In my view, it is our moral responsibility to recognize the welfare contributions of Sir Ganga Ram and all philanthropists, regardless of their religious affiliations. We must also present such legendary personalities as humanitarian role models before the international community.

The state must ensure that the religious sentiments of our patriotic non-Muslims communities should not get hurt over such non-issues in future. It is therefore a dire need of the time to bring all faiths closer and for this, an interfaith forum at governmental level must be established on a priority basis to promote the message of humanity at the national and international levels.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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