World Interfaith Harmony Week: Hussain from Pakistan on how religions can drive education

World Interfaith Harmony Week takes place over the first week of February to provide a platform for interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill to show the world what a powerful movement they are. This week allows for these groups to become aware of each other and to strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each other’s efforts. The initiative is based on the commandments Love of God and Love of the Neighbour and this has been extended to include “Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour” to apply to anyone – regardless of religion. To mark this occasion, the Global Faiths Coalition for Education, in collaboration with Beydaar Society and Echo Change, will publish a series called Young Perspectives: Articles on Faith & Global Education – written by young advocates for education of different faiths.

The third article in this series is by Hussain Haider, a 23-year-old from Pakistan who is the founder of Beydaar Society and Echo Change and a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School.

I’m a Muslim and I care about education. 

During my school life I witnessed a suicide attack – luckily my life was saved. The attacker was a young boy and approximately the same age as me at that time, which made think how a person can be convinced to take his own life.

The answer I got made me scared, as I realised that it is lack of education and uneducated youth is an easy target to be exploited. It really made me scared because in Pakistan there are many millions of children who are out of school. 

So I started my struggle for education as I found education to be the only, first and last solution to our problems. My dedication and commitment towards education motivates me so much that at the age of 23 I am the founder of two organisations. The Beydaar Society is working in Pakistan and Echo Change is international.

My organisation has been working for education for the past three years in different parts of Pakistan. But after attending the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Japan as a youth delegate, I made a strong commitment towards ESD. I realised that we need sustainable solutions for our problems. 

I have studied all the major religions of the world and I came to the conclusion they have promoted almost the same human values and all of them have encouraged the seeking of knowledge and education. But if I talk specifically for Islam, I would like to quote the very first word of the first verse of the Koran revealed to our Prophet Muhammad. It was an Arabic word “iqra” which means read.

That seeking of knowledge had been declared as a religious obligation regardless of gender. Islam strongly supports children’s rights on education as it makes us a better human. Islam’s commitment towards education is so strong that mosques are not only a place of prayers but were used during the life of our prophet, and are still being used, as centres of knowledge and for spreading education. This education is not only religious but embraces other disciplines including math, physics, literature and science.

There are 58 million children in the world out of school and this number will increase if neglected. We have to realise that education is not the problem of one country or one nation but a collective problem for the human race. If one country’s children don’t have access to education than it will directly or indirectly affect other countries. I really believe that together we have to take a stand to decrease this figure and fulfil a dream of sending every single child to school.

While working on education, I have personally seen the effects of lack of education in our country and other countries, especially in south Asia and Africa. Even issues like terrorism can be tackled by education, as uneducated youth is an easy target to be exploited. That is why I believe the time has come to take collective action for education.That is why I really support the initiative taken by A World at School. I have found its campaigns very effective as they are not confined to conference halls and auditoriums but have touched the grassroots level.

My study of different religions revealed to me that differences of faith may exist but human values are the same. They all emphasise education and the seeking of knowledge. Religion is a very strong force and it can be one of the most effective tools in promoting education. But if we stand separate and divided then this huge target can never be achieved.

A collation of faith can be a very effective way of achieving this common goal. When the goal is common then why don’t we struggle together? This collation of faith can be more formalised and effective to reach the objectives at grassroots levels.