From extremism to peace-building
Awami Mohabbat (Public Devotion) on February 2, 2014, published a full-page story of Hafiz Anas Zaheer who was awarded with a shield in recognition of his noble services in the field of interfaith peace building. Hafiz Anas Zheer has received many shields and medals in recognition of interfaith services. To readers’ surprise, Hafiz Anas Zaheer reveals that he was not a born peace-builder but a religious leader with extreme religious views.
Hafiz Muhammad Anas Zaheer, a PEF Interfaith graduate and a prominent religious scholar from Gujranwala used to see non-Muslim through biased lenses. Religiously motivated as he was, he would actively participate in protests against the government and demand wiping non-Muslims from the face of society.
After attending the PEF interfaith leadership workshops for religious leaders, his views began to change. The PEF workshops helped him realize that his bias towards non-Muslims was result of keeping non-Muslims at arm’s length.
For the last two years, he is working as an interfaith dialogue practitioner and is respected by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
He has established local network for peace builders and women, from diverse socio-religious background are working as members of this network. He has also initiated several peace building programs in his areas including seminars, workshops and rallies demanding equal rights of non-Muslim Pakistanis.
Hafiz Muhammad Anas Zaheer is not only working for interfaith peace building but he is raising his voice for equal health and education for Christian community in his city. To serve non-Muslim members of human family, he has established a dispensary in Gujranwala which provides free medicine to poor and needy people of the area.
Hafiz Muhammad Anas Zaheer has also started working in education sector and, with the help of charitable locals; he has managed to establish “Mohammadia Model School.” The school is providing education and training facilities to 250 children of marginalized, deprived and excluded families of Muslims and non-Muslims.
Anas Zaheer’s services are being noted and recognized. Not only PEF presents him, in different forums, as model religious leader but local and national journals have also awarded him in recognition of his tremendous services in the area of peace building, health and education. For example Awami Mohabbat (Public Devotion), a group of publications in collaboration with Kindle Society, awarded him a shield in recognition of his noble services on the eve of their anniversary.
Anas Zaheer has also received an award in recognition of his work for peace in Lahore. In the award ceremony, more than 500 participants from different walks of life including political leaders, journalists, faith leaders, health, literature, sports, showbiz celebrities, businessmen, lawyers, labors and representative of national and international public figures were available. Former Chief Justice Lahore High Court Mian Allah Nawaz presided this ceremony and former Admiral and Ambassador of Pakistan Javed Iqbal was the chief guest.
During his speech, Anas Zaheer acknowledged that it was due to his engagement with PEF which helped his climb out of extreme views.
“I learnt interfaith peace building skills from PEF. It is the organization which filled me with love, compassion and empathy for my fellow human beings who don’t belong to my faith but they are members of human family like me”.
In the end, he presented his road map for social change in his area:
- Establishing vocational center in Gujranwala to generate employment opportunities for skilled women
- Setting up health dispensaries in different areas of the city to provide medicine to poor and needy people of the area
- Arranging peace building workshops for male and female to promote peaceful coexistence
- Creating peace building programs to engage youth (male and female) in Gujranwala.