The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Pakistan in Seoul to The Korea Post for publication.--Ed.
As part of the newly elected government of Pakistan? initiative to promote interfaith harmony, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan met with the members of the Christian community in Pakistan on the occasion of Christmas on Dec. 21, 2013. In his address, Prime Minister Sharif stressed the strong commitment of his government to uphold the rights of minority communities and provide knowledge, prosperity and peace to everyone without any discrimination. He highlighted the “close relationship between the two great religions of the world.” The Prime Minister reiterated that “the safety and security of life, property and honour of every citizen is a fundamental right irrespective of religious belief.” Full text of the address by the Prime Minister follows:
My Christian Brothers and Sisters!
I am feeling very glad to be among my Christian brothers and sisters. The happy occasion of Christmas is just a few days away. I extend my warm facilitation to you in advance on this auspicious occasion.
If we believe in all divine books as our faith is incomplete without it then what differentiates us? According to the Holy Quran, the Jesus Christ had said while in the cradle that "And Salam (peace) be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive" His descend to this world is a source of peace for the entire humanity. The holy Christ is the divine being whose teachings and guidance is a beacon of light for the followers of all the religions. He is an ever shining star of love that will never fade away. Though He left this world at a young age yet His teachings illuminated the four corners of the world. He will enlighten the world till the Day of Judgment. His descend to this worlds is therefore the cause of jubilation for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The way the Holy Quran has described the Christ and His mother Hadrat BiBi Maryam, speaks of the close relationship between the two great religions of the world. This testifies the common divine origin of both religions. The Christ descended first while Hadrat Muhammad followed: both have Hadrat Ibrahim as their common ancestor who even today is a symbol of unity among the divine religions. In view of this fact, the religious divide should therefore completely narrow down.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
What bewilders me is that despite this closeness why the religion has been made a cause of division and antagonism among human beings. All the religions aim at the purification of the soul so that the man is endeared to the Creator and at the same time a promoter of the welfare of fellow humans. Despite this unity, if the religious divide is a hurdle to peace then it is only because religion is being wrongly interpreted. Moreover, some people are exploiting religion for their personal ulterior motives. They want that the religious differences should not only remain alive but these should also enlarge the divide. Unfortunately, there are also people in Pakistan who are causing differences among us and turning our mutual love into hatred. We need to defeat their ill designs.
Ladies and gentlemen!
The religious hatred in Pakistan is a matter of concern for me due to a variety of reasons. One is that the Constitution of Pakistan does not allow religious disparity but respects the basic rights of all the citizens. The safety and security of life, property and honour of every citizen is a fundamental right irrespective of religious belief. The great Quaid-i-Azam had assured equal rights to all the citizens in his 11 August Speech. The objective Resolution also grantees equal rights to all Pakistanis. This has been an integral part of all the constitutions of Pakistan. Minority rights in Pakistan are equal to the rest of citizens of Pakistan. They had opted for Pakistan at their own choice at the time of division. Therefore maintaining any difference among the citizens of Pakistan is a violation of the constitution. It is also a betrayal of the promise of the Quaid that he had given to the minorities on behalf of the nation.
This attitude is also undesirable as the minorities have rendered valuable and proud sacrifices for development and defence of the country. They have been also part of our army, judiciary, parliament and government and will continue to do so. Their services are inferior to none. Majority of Pakistanis are full of praise for their services and duly respect them. It is only a few mischief mongers and misleads that are exploiting religious sentiments.
My dear Brothers and Sisters!
Those shedding the human blood at Peshawar do not represent the masses. They have no respect for the mosque or a church. Neither have they considered the Muslim nor non-Muslims of any consequence. In fact, those are the true representatives of the masses who hurriedly came to the rescue of their brothers and sisters. While some of them covered the naked bodies, others offered their blood to the wounded. Still others fetched water to extinguish the fire to save the church. I assure you that this is the real Pakistan. Insha Allah, we will never allow anyone to deface Pakistan.
Ladies and gentlemen!
We have taken due care in our policies that all the citizens be provided equal opportunities for progress. There shall be no discrimination on the basis of religion. In the recently launched youth programme, all types of discriminations have been entirely debarred. I urge the Hindu, Christian and Sikh youth to come forward and participate in this scheme with full faith and confidence and become providers of their families. The government of Punjab has allocated Rs 200 million for minorities and 150 million for the poor and needy minority students. Rs 5 lacs per family were given to the affected families of the Joseph colony mishap and their houses and the church were reconstructed so that they may continue with their normal daily routine happily.
We are all victims of the same crises Pakistan is facing today. Terrorism has not targeted the followers of any particular religion. Poverty does not recognize religion. Ignorance is also not confined to any particular sect or religion. The question is if ignorance is not limited to any religion why should the knowledge be? If terrorism has no religion why should the peace have one? When poverty is not confined to any religion why should prosperity be? We have to provide knowledge, prosperity and peace to everyone without discrimination. The government is committed to this.
Ladies and gentlemen!
Together we have to promote the vision of unity. The loss and profit of all Pakistanis are mutual. There is only one division in Pakistan i.e. between the tyrant and the oppressed. This is a division of the usurper and the deprived. As a nation, we must agree that we will always side with the deprived and the oppressed. We all have to work towards promoting this culture. If we succeed, Insah Allah we will, then Pakistan will be a hub of peace, where all will enjoy equal rights. Let? pledge that we will honestly play our useful role towards this end.
Message of Prime
Minister Sharif on the Eve of Christmas
I congratulate my Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan as well as throughout the world on the auspicious occasion of Christmas, being celebrated today.
The Jesus Christ was sent to this world as symbol of peace, brotherhood and respect for the entire humanity. He not only healed the ailing humanity but preached the divine values of tolerance, love and compassion. His descent to this world is a source of peace for the entire humanity. The Holy Christ is the divine being whose teachings and guidance is a beacon of light for the followers of all the religions.
Constitution of Pakistan envisages equal rights to all citizens and provision of safety and security of life, property and honour of every citizen is a fundamental duty of the state irrespective of caste, creed or religious belief. Quaid-i-Azam had also assured equal rights to all the citizens and we are committed to carry out his words.
On this occasion, I reiterate that the government will continue to uphold the rights of all minorities and will ensure the protection of their life, property and treat them as equal citizens of the state. I also urge the religious, political and social elites to foster solidarity and brotherhood among the followers of all the religious faiths to make Pakistan a hub of peace and prosperity.