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14 August 2013

Pakistani Interfaith Rickshaws

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By Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi and Heena Bukhari

For their part, the drivers felt they were making a valuable contribution to history by volunteering their rickshaws.

They’re fun, they’re funky, they’re vibrant, and most importantly they have a serious mission of promoting peace. Come and take a ride on the Aman Sawari – The peace rickshaws!

An initiative set up by the Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA), the Aman Sawari Campaign aims to sow the seeds a peaceful and tolerant culture through the use of art, which is both easily accessible and mobile, through the medium of auto-rickshaws.

The Aman Sawari Campaign, aims to revitalize an existing culture where rickshaws are used for advertisements and propaganda by decorating them with messages of peace and tolerance like “peace not pieces” and “respecting other religions brings respect for your religion.”

This is in contrast to the more recent messages of religious intolerance and hostility, which are becoming a permanent fixture on these vehicles throughout Pakistan.
These attitudes and the positive effects of projects like the Aman Sawari Campaign can re-instill a sense of hope in many people who are greatly in need.

Unity in Diversity

The first Aman Sawari Campaign was launched in Karachi in December 2012.

Karachi is arguably the most multicultural city in Pakistan, and therefore the concept of “unity in diversity” has often been a difficult task to achieve.

However, this campaign has shown that through creativity and the involvement of people from the grassroots, artistic expressions can manage to bring a sense of solidarity amongst the masses for a common cause of peaceful co-existence.

The PYA wanted the drivers and the passengers of the rickshaws to be a core part of this campaign. Over 200 school children from different ethnic backgrounds in Karachi were involved in designing and promoting the Aman Sawari Campaign, and many rickshaw drivers were enthusiastic and willing to have their rickshaws decorated to promote peace.

This was an effective way of engaging youth who were very excited and full of bright ideas on working together for a peaceful Pakistan.

For their part, the drivers felt they were making a valuable contribution to history by volunteering their rickshaws.

Furthermore, the drivers noticed an increase in their daily wages by approximately R.300 ($3.05) since having their rickshaws decorated. Drivers believe this was due to the good nature of the cause and the general appeal of a more friendly and colorful rickshaw.

Art as an Interfaith Means

The attitudes of the drivers and school children kick-started the campaign to create a culture of peace through art.

The successful involvement of both the rickshaw drivers and the school children highlights the attitudes of many members of society toward art, and the power art has in creating a tolerant and peaceful Pakistan.

These attitudes and the positive effects of projects like the Aman Sawari Campaign can re-instill a sense of hope in many people who are greatly in need.

PYA also believes that any promotion of art is a peaceful and important tool in changing a very damaged and negative image of Pakistan worldwide. The campaign also aims to bust myths about the country and its people. It wants to show the diversity and creativity of a nation that has had more unrest, internally and internationally, in the last decade than most other countries.

The Aman Sawari Campaign can show a global audience that there are initiatives being implemented to tackle the core problems of Pakistani society.

The PYA hopes that each ride on a peace rickshaw will contribute toward a society deeply rooted in concepts of peace, tolerance and unity.

This is how peace will travel in Pakistan, the Aman Sawari way.

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

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