The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) organized an event to celebrate the contributions of Peter Jacob, who received the prestigious Department of State's International Religious Freedom Award on the 25th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act 1998.
The event held at the SAFMA auditorium in Lahore was attended by journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and diplomats. The speakers included Wajahat Masood, Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal, Clara Strandhoj, Head of Lahore, Consulate of the UK, Karl Rogers, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate, Arif Saeed, Honorary Consul of Germany in Lahore, Tanveer Jahan, Saroop Ijaz Advocate, Allama Saddiq Azhar, Samson Salamat, and Rana Zulqurnain Advocate, who dilated upon Peter Jacob’s work for the promotion and protection of religious and other freedoms.
Academic, writer, and analyst Wajahat Masood said, "We, the citizens, refuse to accept the division of majority and minority based on religion, and we will continue to agitate against the discriminatory provisions in the constitution. The constitution is a social contract between the state and its citizens, and we aspire for a dispensation in Pakistan espousing equality of status, dignity, rights, and opportunities for all citizens without any discrimination.”
Clara Strandhoj said that the founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, championed the ideals of tolerance, equality, and inclusion, so his vision must be followed as a guiding principle to strengthen laws and policies so that they could help address hate crimes and religion-based violence with impunity, improve the implementation of human rights, and run the country in the right direction.
While appreciating the work of human rights defenders, she reiterated her country’s commitment to Pakistan for peace and development and, most importantly, improving the observance of human rights.
Karl Roger appreciated the dedicated efforts of Peter Jacob for human rights in general and religious freedom in particular. He stated that the USA was committed to promoting religious freedom and democracy at home and abroad. He said that acts of discrimination, intolerance, and violence must be prevented.
Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal congratulated Peter Jacob for this well-deserved recognition and termed it a remarkable achievement for all Pakistanis, as human rights defenders like Peter Jacob worked hard to promote social cohesion and equality of rights for all.
Tanveer Jahans said that discrimination on the grounds of religion was unacceptable. Peter Jacob’s work stands out for using research and evidence-based advocacy to bring about positive reforms in laws and policies. The human rights defenders will not compromise on the principles and standards of human rights and will carry on their efforts to stop human rights violations.
Amjad Saleem Minhas appreciated Peter Jacob as he demonstrated courage, perseverance, consistency, and tolerance in the field of human rights, as well as showing alternative narratives to address human rights issues, which caused positive human rights developments in Pakistan.
Arif Saeed said that Peter Jacob has several achievements to his credit, and winning such an award is a huge milestone. A society cannot survive unless efforts by people like Peter Jacob are made for the promotion of peace, tolerance, human development, and human rights.
Speaking on the occasion, Peter Jacob stated that he received this award with humility and on behalf of a large number of human rights defenders who strived for human rights and democratic space, particularly the team at the Centre for Social Justice and the entire civil society in Pakistan. He was called to stand up with seven other people of dedication and courage for the International Religious Freedom Award from Nigeria, Iraq, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Lithuania, Canada, and South Africa. “This award shall encourage civil society to continue collective efforts for meaningful and positive changes in our beloved country, Pakistan, he added.