Raj Kumar Gujar – Fostering Inter-Faith Harmony in Pakistan

Raj Kumar Gujar: A Journey That Started from Umerkot…

Twenty-four year old Raj Kumar Gujar comes from Umerkot, Sindh. He shifted to Islamabad in 2011 and has done BBA (Hons) from SZABIST on full scholarship. In 2013 he was selected for the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, (This was launched in Pakistan in 2010 by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State. The Global UGRAD-Pakistan program offers cultural/academic exchange through a non-degree program for a semester at a university in the USA).

In the USA, he studied Business at the Juniata College, Pennsylvania. After his return he became an active member of the Pakistan-US Alumni Network (PUAN). Among numerous leadership posts he has served as Youth Group Director for a year. He was the pioneer member of the Youth Council and was thereby elected the Vice President of the Community Service Projects. He is also PUAN’s General Secretary Islamabad-Rawalpindi chapter.

In 2015, he was selected as one of the Ambassadors of Peace at ‘Peace without Borders’, an initiative of Shaoor Foundation (that is working for peace development in Pakistan on a national and international level) and represented Pakistan at the 10th Global Peace Festival in Chandrigarh, India.

Initiatives of Raj Kumar Gujar

Due to the meaningful work that he has been doing, he managed to secure a number of grants for that purpose. Under the banner of ‘Days of Inter-religious Youth Action (DIYA) – Promoting Peace through Composite Heritage’ he organized some events over a span of two months which involved 250 individuals including children, youngsters, writers, social activists and members of the civil society. They are as follows:

‘Art for Peace’ which was held at Pakistan Sweet Homes, an orphanage in Islamabad. Students from Master Ayub Street School, St. Mary’s, SLS Schools as well children from the Christian, Hindu and Baha’i community participated in the event. They were a total 40 in number and were asked to draw something that signified ‘peace’ for them.

‘Interfaith Sports Gala’, again students from the above mentioned schools and communities took part in different sports i.e. cricket, football, badminton and local games such as pakran-pakrai, pithoo-garam and ludo.

Dialogue on Composite Heritage: Celebrating Diversity, a seminar that had a panel of 6 speakers and an audience of over a 100 people belonging to all minority communities. Six areas were covered which could be used as effective tools of promoting peace through composite heritage and interfaith harmony, they were: a) Awareness Culture b) Diversity, Community outreach & Development c) Non-violent Communication d) Pluralism e) Tolerance f) Sufism: Techniques of Meditation

The final installment was a ‘Sufi Night’ which was held at FACE where Shahram Azhar (creator & ex-vocalist Laal band) enthralled the audience with his performance on the poetry of Lal Shahbaaz Qalander. It also featured Qawwalistan – a rock qawwali band whose lead singer is Imran Aziz Mian (son of late Aziz Mian Qawal). It was an exploration of the relationship between Sufism and humanity through music.

Raj Kumar Gujar: First Pakistani to Receive the ‘Emerging Young Leaders Award’

Attired in a formal suit yet wearing a traditional ‘Ajrak’, Raj Kumar Gujar received the award for being one of the ‘Emerging Young Leaders’ on 4th May from the State Department of USA. He along the nine other youngsters from Afghanistan, Algeria, Belgium, Israel, Malta, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tajiskstan and Vietnam were acknowledged for their efforts in reducing crime, imparting teaching and training, organizing public meetings, and encouraging interfaith discussions in their communities.

All of them visited the USA for an intensive two week program from 30th April to 13th May. Their first stop was Washington DC where they had the opportunity to meet with congressmen, secretaries, policy makers and many others. A few days later they traveled to Austin, Texas for a brief stay in order to engage with their American colleagues (A short article about him was featured in the June issue of ‘Austin South Asian’, which is the only magazine in Texas covering news of South Asia).

Then before returning to their respective countries, they reassembled once again in the capital to discuss their future plans and ways of working together.

And a National Award…

While on national level, he has just been awarded the “Best Achievement of 2017” at the 1st Minority Youth Leadership Conference that was held 20th May at Karachi. It was organized by the Pakistan Hindu Youth Council with the backing of Youth Affairs, Department Government of Sindh

Other Activities of Raj Kumar Gujar…

He is doing a lot of social work in various capacities, such as:

  • Project-Head at the District Women Action Forum’s chapter in Umerkot.
  • Works for PEAD (Peace, Education and Development) Foundation.
  • Program and Communication Manager at Women through Film.
  • Event Planner at FACE (Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education).
  • PR for our folk singer Mai Dhai.
  • Since 2011 he has been doing voluntary work for Khubaib Foundation, an NPO which since 1999 has been working for orphans, women, prisoners and the destitute.
  • Has conducted many training sessions in areas such as Education, Entrepreneurship, Interfaith Harmony, Role of Youth & Women in Peace as well Women Liberation.
  • Runs a small home business where local women make handicrafts, which he then exhibits in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
  • Has established a school for the underprivileged children in Umerkot.

Last but Not the Least…

On 9th June he visited Edhi Homes, Islamabad as the PUAN’s Islamabad-Rawalpindi chapter organized a Ramazan gathering to spend time with women, the elderly and engage in different activities such as artwork, story-telling and games with the orphan children.

On 20th June he will be speaking about his experiences at Right Solutions Computer Institute of Excellence, Umerkot.

Here’s to a Peaceful Pakistan…

So it is very encouraging to see that someone belonging to a minority is striving to create a positive image of the country, and remove the misconceptions people have about how minorities are treated here, and in the process promoting peace and harmony among the different communities and ethnicities that make up Pakistan.

Yet for Raj Kumar this is only just the beginning… as there are many plans that he will be putting into action very soon…

 

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Hajra Saeed

Hajra Saeed has been writing for the past 20 years. During her career she has contributed to various leading newspapers and magazines, but currently writes for the special supplements of ‘The Nation’. She has written on a wide array of topics; however areas of interest are social issues, religion, philosophy and presenting a positive image of Pakistan. Has experience in copy writing, content writing, technical writing, screenwriting and teaching. Likes to read, do online courses as well as social work.