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Watch: Puppets teach children religious tolerance in Pakistan

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By Euronews  with Reuters
The show, starring Sinbad the Sailor, teaches respect for all faiths
The show, starring Sinbad the Sailor, teaches respect for all faiths   -   Copyright  Reuters

In the narrow alleys of the poor Pakistani neighbourhood of Lyari, known for drugs, gang wars and a low literacy rate, children are learning about peace and love across the boundaries of faith – from puppets.

As the curtains open, a narrator tells the story of Sinbad the Sailor, a hero of Middle-Eastern origin, and his journeys around the world where he meets people of different faiths, languages and religions – who often do not have much tolerance for one another.

"A man is dying and you guys are talking about castes," the protagonist rebuked another character, who did not want to save someone belonging to a lower caste from drowning.

"You should be ashamed of calling yourself human beings. Humans save humanity, not castes," Sinbad added.

Observers said a message of interfaith harmony is needed in Pakistan, which has seen attacks on churches, Hindu temples and Sufi shrines in recent years by extremist religious groups and Islamic militants.

Pakistan is a deeply conservative Muslim nation, where religious schools are often blamed for the radicalisation of youngsters but are sometimes the only ones providing education to millions of poor children.

The writer and associate director of the puppet show, Nouman Mehmood, said the story came to mind when his group was conducting a campaign about education awareness in low-income neighbourhoods in the city.

They noticed the religious and ethnic extremism in those neighbourhoods and decided to create a performance to convey the message of tolerance via a puppet show.

"The basic thing is acceptance. You should have enough room to accept others regardless of whether he is a Christian, without considering he is a Hindu, without considering he is a Sikh," Mehmood said.

Organised by Thespianz Theatre, the daily show plans to travel to 11 other low-income neighbourhoods of Karachi, after their run in Lyari. They also plan to perform the puppet show in Sindh province, Punjab province and the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Thespianz team said they are community-driven, often reaching out to people before the show and going door-to-door to invite people to attend the performance.

Mehmood added: "We tell them through puppet characters that we don't have to think that it's a Christian standing in front of us, but a human being."

Video editor • Nicolas Coquet