KARACHI -- Pakistani civil society groups are training university instructors to become part of the fight for tolerance and against militancy.
The Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank, recently organised a series of three workshops to train instructors of Islamic studies in promoting peace and tolerance.
The first workshop took place in Karachi April 27-28, for university faculty from Sindh Province, Balochistan Province and Karachi city. Lecturers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) attended the second training session in Murree May 30-31, while lecturers from Punjab Province and Pakistani-administered Kashmir attended the last workshop June 1-2 in Murree.
The main objective of such education is to restore the confidence of Pakistani communities in their ability to live peacefully, PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana told Central Asia Online.
The hope is that the instructors who underwent the training will share the inclusive, tolerant message with their students, Rana added.
Teachers’ role in promoting tolerance
University lecturers have an important role in creating pro-tolerance, anti-militancy educational outcomes, the specialists facilitating the training sessions say.
"Teachers need to adopt the tools of critical inquiry in their own research, as well as in teaching others," Rana told Central Asia Online, adding that such an attitude would keep their curriculum and teaching free of ideologies.
Teachers can shatter stereotypes, he said.
Dialogue supported by arguments, counter-arguments and consideration of opponents' views is the best way to learn, Abdul Hameed Nayyer, a former professor at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, said at the Karachi forum.
"It will help create spaces for mutual co-existence and harmony in a society,” Nayyer said at the forum.
Pakistani educators should add lessons about social harmony to primary and secondary school syllabi, he said.
"Teachers should broaden their knowledge base and promote mutually agreed religious literature," he said.
Nurturing a culture of peace
Pakistan is working to build a culture of peace after years of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist attacks around the country.
The workshops are part of a peace education campaign in the wake of such violence, Rana said.
"Teachers must promote religious harmony and pro-peace narratives in the classroom," he said.
Workshop participants concurred with Rana's assessment.
The workshops helped participants understand how to change their pupils' or students' perceptions and behaviour, Shahid Baloch, a Balochistan post-graduate college teacher who attended the Karachi session, told Central Asia Online.
"Islamic studies teachers can work as peace educators," Baloch said. "Teachers are the appropriate community [for reaching children and college students] easily."
The present-day Pakistani school curriculum fails to encourage harmony, a group of teachers and religious scholars from Sindh and Balochistan agreed.
Besides deficient textbooks, another cause is teachers who lack a sensitive approach, Baloch said.
"Teachers should receive proper training on how to address students of all faiths," Baloch added.