The Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA), a U.S. organization, along with the Ravi Foundation-Pakistan, recently joined together to run a “Youth Peace Camp” to teach the concepts and skills to promote peace and harmony to address the issues of intolerance and violence in their East Asian country.
|Youth Peace Camp delegates group photo|
The camp, held in Toba Tek Singh in Punjab Province, was attended by 25 male and female youth leaders from various educational institutions and organizations who traveled from different Pakistani cities.
Dr. Pritam. K. Rohilla (Ph.Ed), Executive Director of ACHA, which is based in Oregon, conducted the camp using a peace workbook called “Choices and Self Esteem.”
During the gathering, Dr. Rohilla told ANS that he had been visiting both India and Pakistan since 2006 from his base in the United States so as to “interact with peace and human rights organizations” in both countries.
|The camp in progress|
He stated that, during his years of experience in meeting with what he called “the icons of peace and human rights” in both countries, he said that ACHA, through the “Youth Peace Camps” was able to address the issues of “intolerance and violence” in both India (where there have been three camps) and in Pakistan, in Karachi and this one, in Toba Tek Singh.
Mr. Rohilla said that, during his travels, he has observed that “the youth are taking much interest to learn “peace values” and, and by doing so, are able to “contribute to their society.”
He went on to say, “I feel my visit is helpful to enable the youth from the neighboring countries to make a commitment for lasting peace within themselves, families, societies and their respective societies.”
Ashfaq Fateh, who was the Toba Tek Singh camp organizer, and is also a Special Correspondent to ANS in Pakistan, explained that the Ravi Foundation, which he founded, “is an organization working to empower the vulnerable groups of society, including children, women, laborers, religious minorities and those involved in animal rights and protection.”
|Pledge for Peace and Harmony|
He went on to say, “Our organization has conducted a peace formation program with youth in the past, and that is why we decided to organize this important youth camp.
“I wish to express my thanks to the ACHA leaders who accepted the request and came all the way from U.S. at their own expenses to help our Pakistani youth.”
Fateh then said, “I am glad to say that our youth showed great interest in the program and the positive thing is that both boys and girls took part together.”
Some of the youth camp delegates then agreed to share their views about the experience.
Johnson Gill, 20, a youth leader said, “I have learned that how things we like, and dislike, form our behavior and attitude.”
Saba Younis 17, a college student stated, “I was happy to learn about anger management and how to express myself in a non-violent way.”
Salman Asghar, 12, said, “During the camp, I came to know the importance of unity in diversity, and also of respecting people from differing faiths, cultures, and castes.”
The Rev. Sr. Andrew RJM [a Roman Catholic nun from the Religious of Jesus and Mary who has been teaching for the last 60 years] took a pledge of “peace and harmony” from the young people at the end of the camp. This was the pledge that they spoke out loud:
I will not intentionally use my hands or my words to harm anyone;
I will treat my sisters and daughters with at least as much love and respect as I treat my brothers and sons;
I will treat all my neighbors as deserving of my respect, regardless of their class, caste, sect or religion; and
I will engage in environment–friendly practices in my life.
|Distribution of certificates|
Mr. Khalid Mehmood Bhatti, the Tehsil [Administrative Division] Municipal Officer and the Rev. Fr. Simon Khurshid, then distributed certificates among the youth delegates after they had said the peace pledge.
Background on the Ravi Foundation:
During the recent devastating floods in Pakistan, the Ravi Foundation was able to feed, for four months, some 35,000 thousand flood-affected livestock and companion animals in South Punjab with traditional feed of “Wanda, Wheat Bran and Wheat Straw.” As well as this, 1,000 flood-affected families were given “mini-mangers” made of old recycled tires and 50 families were given two girders each to build a shelter for their animals.
Fateh told ANS that the “International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Uncaged UK, and animal-friendly people from United Kingdom, also donated funds to provide relief assistance to animals during the period of the terrible floods in our country.”
He added that the Ravi Foundation had been able to distribute food rations among 400 rain-affected Christian families in Punjab and two families were provided roof material to rebuild their house.
“Our Ravi Foundation is continuously struggling to press the Punjab government to provide relief to rain-affected Christian families,” he concluded.