As 2020 comes to a close, we find ourselves looking back at one of the most turbulent years in recent memory. The global pandemic has forced millions around the world into lockdowns, with Coronavirus infections reaching tens of millions globally and tragically claiming approximately until now 2 million lives in the process. Whilst vaccines are on the way, the year ahead is still uncertain; self-isolation, working from home and social distancing will remain ‘the new normal’ well into 2021.
In these times, it is important that we demonstrate a renewed sense of optimism, cohesion and tolerance towards each other. Christmas has always been a celebration that embraces the spirit of connectedness amongst friends and family, and this year the Christian community, like other religious communities throughout the year, will be forced to celebrate in a different way.
The pandemic has already restricted religious life this year. The two Muslim Eids and the Jewish Hannukah have all been curtailed by lockdown restrictions: communities were forbidden from worshipping together, while family and friends could not congregate to mark the occasion.
Sadly, Christmas will be no different. Whilst leaders around the Christian world will take difficult decisions on allowing gatherings, there remains a need to preserve the social unity that is vital to humanity. Even in 2019, speaking in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis called for fraternity among all faith leaders, saying “we will either build the future together or there will not be a future”, a message that is more crucial now than ever as the world looks to rebuild.
We have seen people of all faiths adapt, congregating in virtual settings, coming together to support one another by giving hope and comfort. Many religious institutions have been at the frontline of mitigating the impacts of Covid-19, comforting grieving families, providing communities with emergency food, shelter and much needed guidance and support, through an extraordinary interfaith response.
On May 14th, in a landmark event, millions of religious leaders and their followers from all ages and backgrounds responded to the ‘Prayer for Humanity’ initiative, initiated by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity which was one of the biggest cries for human solidarity. In the wake of growing inter-ethnic tensions across the globe, this was a seminal moment, demonstrating that staying united will ultimately prevail and help us emerge from the current crisis.
These efforts culminated in the launch of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, which has been named in honor of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, who also established an inspirational model of tolerance and coexistence both within the UAE and abroad. It was Sheikh Zayed’s legacy, which would be carried on by his children, that would go on to serve as the biggest inspiration to the doctrine of human fraternity.
The $1M Zayed Award for Human Fraternity is not simply an award for those who dedicate their efforts towards achieving human fraternity but is rather a celebration of their efforts and a tool to encourage them to continue their noble work. Additionally, the award will serve as a global platform for all those working in the field of human fraternity to meet annually at its awards ceremony. During that time, it is hoped that expertise and visions are mutually shared, and that cooperation is built among participants, for human fraternity is a joint exercise between all those seeking to achieve it.
Despite its relative infancy, the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity aspires to be one of the most prominent international accolades in the world and those that choose to take the path of human fraternity must be aware that they are not alone in doing so. Two of the world’s biggest religious symbols have already taken the path of human fraternity; His Holiness Pope Francis, Pontiff of the Catholic Church and His Eminence Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. In its first honorary edition, the prize was jointly awarded to the religious leaders for their efforts in promoting the values of fraternity, coexistence and peace following the historic signing of the Document on Human Fraternity on the 4th of February 2019 in Abu Dhabi. This historic event has been the inspiration behind the unanimous decision of the United Nations General Assembly to observe February 4th as The International Day of Human Fraternity.
The world we live in is in dire need of empathy and unity that can help serve humanity. The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity will continue to support such efforts through initiatives that target all humans regardless of their gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs with the eventual aim of establishing a better world for future generations.
As we move towards the New Year, it is crucial to make sure we take with us the positive lessons from 2020 and the ways in which the crisis has brought us together. New friendships have been forged and communities, despite being apart, have found new ways to congregate. Many countries clapped symbolically for their health services, while volunteers around the world have supported front-line workers and the people of many nations sang together on their balconies.
These are the experiences we should keep in our hearts as we strive to look towards a dawning awareness of solidarity and human fraternity.
You could have been black too: Describing racism in Venezuela
“Black woman! . . . if you were white and had straight hair / My mother told me in distress not to marry a black woman, because when she’s asleep, she looks like a coiled snake / A black woman with a big nose doesn’t cook for me, because she hides the mouthfuls in her nostrils”
The world is in the severe grip of Corona virus, countries are experiencing recession & economic downfall, millions of people are starving vanishing, and environment is abating. All this together, alarms world for the worsening future that might welcome us tomorrow. But still the capitalist class of developed nations is indulged in the debate of US/them. On the basis of primordial traits individuals are classified as either in-group or out-group. Consequently hatred, animosity and xenophobia is increasing generation by generation towards the minorities around the world.
Similar is the situation of afro-Venezuelan community around the world and predominantly in Venezuela. The afro-descendant group is target of hate speech, discrimination and racism. They are been called by various names such as vermin, mulatoo, barefoot, rabble, uncultured and inferior; mainly due to their afro-descendant identity. However the Venezuelan government denies the presence of racism, by asserting itself a racial democracy. A land which mixed heritage, embraces its café con leech or coffee with milk characteristic with pride.
History of afro-descendants in Venezuela dates back to 16th century, this era was significantly underlined for colonization by Spanish settlers. As the land was rich in natural resources supplementary workforces were brought from the third world countries. General belief system of elite of was “blacks have no soul and have very little intellectual capacity, so better if they perform task such as slavery”. This is how African people first came to Venezuela, in order to work in the coca plantation. But no one was aware of the fact, this increased immigration; at one point of time might leads to numerically upsurge of afro-descendants at home. In 1979, customary practice of African slave trade was abolished, but till this time African community made almost 60% of Venezuela’s population.
Afterwards to avoid the racial discrimination and hatred towards minorities. The Venezuelan nation adopted its mestizaje ideology and inculcated racial democracy. Which states that everyone is a mixed heritage, miscegenation. These elementary ideologies of Venezuela contradicts the presence of racism or racial divide in country. But realistically speaking racism is there, and unfortunately it is been masked due the mestizaje ideology. Closing the wounds of racism by making everyone a mixed.
The Racist treatment of afro-Venezuelan community is quite evident from their economic exclusion, social and political deprivation, hate speech directed towards them in popular music and lastly from their treatment in media. In short the state has been narrow-minded in providing social, economic, political and cultural values to its non-white majority.
Systematic exclusion of afro-Venezuelans from the economic system and job opportunities intensify the grievances of Afro-Venezuelans. Lack job opportunities for blacks, and fortunately if there are some jobs; even in those places they are driven out of their offices or are target of continued racism. Quoting the example of former president of Hugo Chavez Perez who was been called as Negro and monkey due to his afro-descendant identity. Another case of discrimination was heralded was an ice cream parlor franchise, situated in Caracas published a digital advertisement asking for hiring of employees. But the job criteria confused people, as it represented a clear discriminatory stance towards non-whites, requesting employees with ‘white skin’ and a height of 1,70m. Representation of blacks in media is also pitiful. There are only a few black faces in media, anchor person, television celebrities even the Miss Venezuela are invariably white or off white. It also causes whitening of popular culture; and a stigmatization in society those who are whiter are better off & socially acceptable.
Social grievances of afro-Venezuelans are evident from the customary practices of Non-documentation, denial of birth certificates, denial of nationality, and lack of information on social security issues; such as access to pensions by older people for almost past 40 years. Apart from that only references to black people in school texts is of historical aside during slavery. Further stereotyping afro-Venezuelans and perpetuating racism. This is not only wicked but alarming, how a state can constantly discriminate its citizens. How a group of people can be denied of their fundamental human rights by the states and authorities.
Political grievances of Afro-Venezuelans are in the form of exclusionary nationalist ideology, African descendants are deprived of self-right, freedom of expression, self-determination, political and human rights. Taking into account the recruitment procedure of blacks in army, was also biased and in the interest of elite. As it that would provide elite the man power for army.
The core of the problem lies in the problematic group histories of Afro-Venezuelans as they being a product of slave trade. Historically deprived of rights and treated unfairly further generates the concept of degraded community. Labelling them as the one who lack soul, not born to live rather to practice slavery as lack in intellectual wellbeing further generates dishonored sentiments and exacerbates racism. The problem cannot be solved, as long as it is considered a problem of black community only. Discrimination against any community reflects humanity at its worse, and the norm keeps on expanding in other parts of the world as well. Therefore it is necessary to consider racism a problem of humanity. Strict measures must be taken to root out racism, to help humanity. If today you are silent on the matter, it means you are showing consent towards racism. So speak up against racism, if you think it’s not right. Otherwise it will become a norm.
Educating Women in Pakistan: A Necessity For National Development
Education is fundamental to the success of any nation. Almost every developed nation recognizes its importance and lays great emphasis on its availability to every human being.
Education brings out the meaning of life and enables a person to make sense of the world around him. While on the other hand, an illiterate person fails to comprehend the essence of life and lives in ignorance.
Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world has grappled with the grave situation of illiteracy almost from the time of its existence and has one of the lowest literary rates on the continent. To put it narrowly, approximately 40% of its female population has not even received education at all. Thus, the major chunk of its population remains backward, which otherwise if educated could have proven to be a major source of social and economic development.
Women’s education is inextricably linked to the well-being of society. A society comprises of both male and female members, and equally needs the contribution of women nearly as much as of men in maintaining and regulating its functions. However, women in Pakistan face great challenges in accessing education and are confined to play domestic roles only. Also, certain societies consider the education of women as taboo. This results in gender inequality and social disparity which ultimately impedes the growth of a nation.
Women, as a child bearer, not only holds great responsibility of proper upbringing of the child but also of a whole generation. This aspect can be underscored by the African proverb which says,
“If you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”
Therefore, an increase in the education of women can profoundly improve human development outcomes such as child survival, health, and schooling. Education can bring phenomenal change in women’s life as it increases their confidence and raises their status in family and society. It lends her voice which she can use to advocate her rights and also helps her to participate in political and social sciences. Pakistan cannot afford to neglect the education of women if it wants to modernize itself and until or unless its female population remains uneducated, it will continue to undermine the ideals of democracy that it so cherishes. There is no doubt that Pakistan is a country whose youth is imbued with great talents and if given adequate knowledge they can properly channel this talent to the country’s advantage. This can only be achieved if gender disparities in literacy and education attainment in rural and urban areas of Pakistan are removed.
Women are also regarded as the weaker segment of society but through education, they can change their weakness into strength. It is also seen that women’s education has a positive relationship with women’s labor force participation rate which can play a significant role in reducing poverty and can contribute to sustainable growth in a developing country like Pakistan itself. Therefore, the government should invest in the education sector and especially in women’s education. This should be on its priority list as it is necessary for national development and progress.
Hence, concrete steps should be taken to empower women by granting them equality and education so that Pakistan can set itself upon the path of success.
Reasons of societal disintegration in Pakistan’s society
Societal disintegration also known as social disorganization can be described as the society’s inability to structure itself and determine the mutual values and norms that should be presiding in a society. Another approach sees is as a complex and interconnected system of communities, formal and informal associations in the socialization process.
There are many reasons that exist in a society giving rise to the societal disintegration, the main and the core cause is the disturbed and interrupted system of social communication and the structure that exist for the mutual assistance. The society that is deprived of functional and far-sighted leadership without new ideas and strategies usually tend to fall in the process of social disintegration. The society practicality and viability tends to falls with the existence of economic problems, dissolving formal and informal institutions, deteriorating interpersonal relationships and weakening of the values and norms. All these thus impact the mental and the physical wellbeing of the society and the people thoroughly involved in it. Thus putting the restrain on the growth, self-realization, self-reflection and acknowledgment.
The reason for this societal disintegration in Pakistani society can be various. These numerous reason might include some internal as well as external causes. For instance Democracy and the rule of law, judicial system and calculated and good governance which was the main building factor of the idea of new country after the partition went into oblivion as soon as the establishment of the country. The nexus that started between the military and the bureaucracy for power accumulation and the multiple Martial laws put constrain on the hope of Pakistanis to build a sustainable nation and it was reflected in the future engagements of the citizen of the state.
Another reason which triggers the societal disintegration was the history of disasters and violence that the citizens go through. For example the history of Pakistan is marked with a lot of resistance and sacrifices by the people and their forefathers. Even after the creation of Pakistan, it had to go through several wars to ensure its survival. The people of Pakistani society also faced this disturbed environment throughout the Great War on terror happening in the immediate neighborhood of Afghanistan. It was impacting Pakistan in several ways for instance military operation to combat terrorism in the region of FATA created an environment of hostility and chaos. Troubled neighborhood and the major inclusion of migrants from time to time and its sociological, economic and psychological impacts is what Pakistan has faced since its establishment .So the environment in which the society exist and the history of disasters also increase the pace of societal disintegration.
Dysfunctional Education system can also contribute to be another major reason that is driving the societal disintegration. As the system lacks to provide the same and the equal opportunities for the children and women to seek the basic education in Pakistan. The lack of uniform educational curriculum and the modes of education is building a stroke between the elites and the lower section of the societies. The disparities on the basis of different religion and social status is escalating the social disintegration in the societies. In terms of opportunities the presence of Nepotism instead of merit is also causing the lack of commitment to one’s own country.
Another reason that is contributing in the societal disintegration is the Cultural confusion also known as cultural dissonance reflecting the disharmony and the conflict and the confusion that people face due to the change in their cultural environment. In Pakistan it is seen in the province of Baluchistan, Gilgit Baluchistan and Pashtunistan. There still exist speculation for the ill treatment, less development and lack of opportunities for the Baloch’s and Gilgiti. This creates a difference among the people of different cultural and give rise to hostility towards one another thus leads to more and more societal disintegration to a point that they start to consider themselves alien to the society. The lack of tolerance and acceptance for other religions, ethnicities and culture will alienate people from one another and will limit them to certain boundaries thus making it difficult for them to grow sociological and psychological, consequently bounding them to only one sect, ethnicities or area. For societal integration one must be visionary and develop sense of acceptance and tolerance leaving a room to nurture and develop as an integrated society rather than fueling the societal disintegration.
As mention earlier about the migration it is important to study it is detail, the massive in and out migration also serves as a factor that lead Pakistan society to face societal disintegration. Many people in Pakistan still seek migration to the countries aboard for better job opportunities, living standards, better health and education and security level. In Pakistan the Pakistani diaspora that basically reflects the brain drain from the country are exceeding the numbers of more than 10 million, people residing in the countries other than their homeland for such luxuries reflect little to no commitment and responsibility to their culture and country. Similarly the great number of influx of migrants as a result of GWOT also posed a challenge for national integration as they bought with them their culture, identity and problem thus making it difficult for citizens to actually achieve the sense of nationality thus leading to more culture confusion and disharmonization.
Those having power and other patrons in Pakistan who are living in their luxurious lifestyles and comfort zones they have this responsibility to observe and analyze and seek guidance from the other countries that how with the presence of diverse cultures, languages and religions, the process of national integration reached to its logical conclusion. But it is not possible in the absence of visionary leadership and the will to work honesty for the society and its harmonization, in absence of these values one cannot expect a country to remain united and integrated as a nation.
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