UN chief calls on world leaders to join hands to fight polio

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres administers polio drops to a child at a private school in Lahore on Feb. 18, 2020. (PID)
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Updated 18 February 2020

UN chief calls on world leaders to join hands to fight polio

  • Guterres expresses solidarity with workers who lost their lives in the line of duty
  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries where polio remains endemic

LAHORE: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for joint global efforts to eradicate polio, as he participated in a campaign against the disease in Lahore on Tuesday.
“Together, we can eliminate polio from across the world, and I appeal to all the world leaders to join hands to fight out polio,” Guterres told reporters at a private school in Lahore, which hosted the event.




United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres poses for a photograph with school children in Lahore on Feb. 18, 2020. (PID)

The UN chief was accompanied by Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmeen Rashed. 
“He appreciated the federal and provincial governments’ efforts to curb this menace,” Rashed told Arab News.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries where polio remains endemic.




United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers an address as part of a polio eradication drive at a school in Lahore on Feb. 18, 2020. (PID)

Guterres said that eradicating polio from the world was the UN’s priority and praised health workers devoted to the cause. 
“I express solidarity with the workers who laid their lives in the line of duty,” the UN chief said, paying homage to the health officials who were targeted and killed.
A nationwide anti-polio campaign started on Monday, aiming to vaccinate 39.6 million children under the age of five. Over 265,000 health workers are involved in the effort, 95,000 in Punjab alone.
“It is the second day of the campaign and we are committed to make it a success. Nearly 95,000 polio workers are on the field, going to every house where a child below the age of five years resides,” Hanif Pitafi, adviser to the chief minister of Punjab, told Arab News.
The Punjab government has issued directives to district deputy commissioners to monitor the process at various locations.
“We will leave no stone unturned to save the future of our children ... We will achieve our target,” Pitafi added.


Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

Updated 31 March 2020

Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

  • Jamaat-e-Islami volunteers provide food and other necessities to Muslims and non-Muslims in need alike, party chief says
  • Religious minority leaders say the step will help promote interfaith harmony in the country

LAHORE: Promoting interfaith harmony during coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s religio-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has set out on a disinfection campaign for mosques, churches, and temples alike in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The initiative taken by the party’s social welfare wing, Al Khidmat Foundation, has been greatly lauded the country’s minority communities.
“Al Khidmat Foundation has been instructed by the party leadership to provide food to the needy in these testing times and participate in the movement of disinfecting worship places belonging to all religions along with other public areas,” JI’s information secretary, Qaisar Sharif, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“In Karachi and Peshawar, Al Khidmat volunteers have helped seven churches, five temples and two [Sikh] gurdwaras,” he added.
Sharif said the party’s top leadership opined that no one was safe since COVID-19 had engulfed the entire world.
“The JI has directed its volunteers to provide cooked food, rations and other items of necessity to those in need. The service is for the people of all faiths, not just Muslims. We believe in one God who is the Master of the universe. Our Prophet was a mercy to the humankind, not just to Muslims alone. As his followers, it is our responsibility to serve all humans without making any discrimination,” Sirajul Haq, the JI chief, told Arab News.
“Serving the mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras is a practical step toward religious harmony,” he continued. “We are trying to show the world that Islam is not a religion of extremism but teaches its followers that all humans are equal.”
The religious leaders of different faiths welcomed the step, saying it would lead to a more pluralistic society.
“It is a positive development that will pave the way for religious harmony in Pakistan,” Pastor Shahid Meraj, Dean of Lahore Cathedral, told Arab News. “There is always an initiative to begin, and this act will help start dialogue among religions.”
“We are thankful to the JI leadership for this gesture,” he added. “They helped us today and we have assured to help them whenever needed.”
Leaders of the Hindu community also appreciated the gesture, saying it would bring people of different religions closer together.
“At a time when the whole world is suffering due to an unseen virus, this act of disinfecting our temples is a good omen,” Pandat Bhagat Lal Khokhar, custodian of Lahore’s Valmik Mandar, told Arab News. “It will have a far reaching and positive impact on our society since it will bring Hindus and Muslims closer together.”
President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh echoed the same sentiment as well.
“This positive gesture will further strengthen the Sikh-Muslim brotherhood,” he noted. “It is important to have interfaith harmony in the country and such steps are extremely fruitful for that purpose.”
Rights activists also appreciated the JI initiative.
“Huge respect for Al-Khidmat, welfare wing of @JIPOfficial, for doing disinfectant spray in Mandir and Church. Lead by example of peaceful coexistence, interfaith harmony and pluralism,” Kapil Dev, a Hindu activist from Sindh, said in a Twitter post.