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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mithi: Where a Hindu fasts and a Muslim does not slaughter cows

Mithi, Pakistan - a Pluralism Town | Foundation for Pluralism

Hell, this is not an easy note, I had to write several times, as it did not meet my criteria of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing goodwill. So, I deleted all of that and here is short one now.

Mithi is a model town of Pluralism in Pakistan. Someday, I have to visit this place. Right now the good news is that the Interfaith movement has taken roots in Pakistan, they did a good job in forming a circle around a Church in Lahore, and during the Diwali a circle around the temple for Hindus to celebrate without fear. I am encouraged by it, this is a good beginning and more good will be coming.

I pray that the People of Pakistan will speak up, and the majority voices will be loud enough to drown the voices of bigotry against Ahmadiyya, Shia and Ismaili  Muslims. It's seems its gotten little better with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. Kidnapping and forced conversions of Hindu Girls is not in news for the last six months. Bigotry is not the monopoly of any one group. For every Muslim bigot, there is one in Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and others. No one can cast the first stone on the others.

In India right now, a few bigoted Hindus are tarnishing the image of Hinduism, the majority needs to speak up before they are labeled as intolerant ones. The irony of majority (India, Pakistan, US or any where) is that they do not see the problem. They are like the bad husbands who scream at the wife, and expect her to be happy because they provide her a place to live. What is she complaining about? Unless there is justice in the society, no society will fully prosper, if injustice reaches its peak, every thing will collapse for every one. It is in our interest to see that Justice remains the corner stone of the society. I like to see the people in majority speak up against injustice.

Pluralism calls for people to respect the otherness of others. I will be making a video where a Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian and a Sikh will be ordering different foods in a restaurant on the same table and see how it should be handled.  We will show both the intolerant and pluralistic ways of dealing with the situation.  Any one wants to fund it?

May God give us guidance to be just to every human. May God give us the wisdom not to judge any human; he alone is the master of the Day of Judgment. 

Mike Ghouse
Foundation for Pluralism 
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Mithi: Where a Hindu fasts and a Muslim does not slaughter cows

Pakistan has become synonymous with terrorism. On most local and international news channels, we hear about minorities getting slaughtered at the hands of extremists; attacks on temples, churches, imambargahs; or the forced conversions of Hindus and Christians in the country.

I reckon you might be pleasantly surprised to know that there is a small town in Tharparkar, a district of the Sindh province where none of this is happening.

Mithi is one of the few towns in Pakistan where Muslims do not form the majority. In this quiet portion of a sprawling desert, both Hindus and Muslims have lived together like brothers since the creation of Pakistan.

In November 2014, when I was selected for a three-week fellowship programme in the United States, I met a gentleman from Sindh who was also among my batch. He introduced himself like this:

"I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us".

I was dumbstruck at the idea of a Hindu fasting in Ramazan or leading a Muharram procession. Was this actually true?

Then, in February this year, I happened to travel to Tharparkar with friends to view the drought-affected areas and launch some projects to overcome the disaster that hits every year. After a 20-hour arduous road and rail journey, I finally reached the quaint little town of Mithi, and here I experienced what I had never expected to see in a Pakistani town.

Mithi is as sweet as the name it has been given. Approximately 80 per cent of the population here is Hindu. It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram.

Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two per cent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.

Speaking with the locals of Mithi, I discovered that here, one could find Hindu speakers organising majaalis in Muharram – something I haven't seen anywhere else in Pakistan – and as my friend in the United States had stated, I heard Hindus sharing their account of Muharram, where they led Ashura processions and provided assistance to procession members in a city where Muslims hardly made up 20 per cent of the population.

A Muslim resident of Thar shared his account by saying:

"In our village, Hindus and Muslims have been living together for decades and there has not been a single day, when I have seen a religious conflict. No loud speaker is used for Azaan at the time when Hindus are worshiping in their temple, and no bells are rung when it is time for namaz. Nobody eats in public when it is Ramazan and Holi is played by every member of the village."

I had always heard stories about interfaith harmony from Sindh but it was so much more amazing to see it firsthand. The love and brotherhood that exists between the Hindus and Muslims of Mithi is a perfect example of pluralism and the tolerant Sufi culture of Sindh.

The author, with his team from 'Humans of Pakistan' seen with Mr Nizam (extreme left), a Muslim, and Mama Vishan (extreme right), a Hindu, who are running a welfare organisation which provides blood donations and ambulance services to the people of Mithi. The friendship between Nizam and Vishan goes back 25 years.
The author, with his team from 'Humans of Pakistan' seen with Mr Nizam (extreme left), a Muslim, and Mama Vishan (extreme right), a Hindu, who are running a welfare organisation which provides blood donations and ambulance services to the people of Mithi. The friendship between Nizam and Vishan goes back 25 years.
If you think Pakistan is all about bombing churches, destroying temples, Talibanisation, slaughtering religious minorities, and forced conversion, I would request you to visit Mithi at least once.

Mithi gives interfaith harmony a new meaning. Religious intolerance elsewhere has barely made a dent in Hindu-Muslim brotherhood over here. They live, eat, and work together, because according to them, it is in their culture.

All religions contradict each other, but that does not mean their followers should make their own colonies on that base alone.

People can and do coexist. It is only the bigots who cannot, and they can be found in every religious group. We must not let them take over the beautiful communities of Pakistan.

Respecting each others' beliefs is the solution of a lot of Pakistan's current predicaments. Religions differ, humans don't.

"It is respecting the otherness of others" 

We have crystallized the definition of pluralism to, “respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the uniqueness of each one of us”. Pluralism is nothing but an attitude of live and let live, and it is applicable in every aspect of life including culture, society, religion, politics, gender, food, ethnicity, race and other uniqueness’s.
By the end of 2020, there will not be a major city in America, and perhaps in the world, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, playing, marrying, and doing things together.

We need to prepare ourselves for those eventualities to prevent possible conflicts, and lay a good foundation for nurturing goodwill and effective functioning of the societies. Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past.  If you live amidst others, you must also respect the otherness of others, as you expect them to do the same for you.

You are who you are, and I am who I am. As long as we don't mess with each others space, sustenance and nurturance, and mind our own business, we all will do well.  If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Pluralism is not a set of rules, it is simply the attitude of live and let live religiously, politically, culturally and socially.  We are committed to building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of a fellow being.

Mike Ghouse

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