Comparative Religions at Taxila Institute
Without knowledge there can be no understanding,
Without understanding there can be no dialog,
Without dialog there can be no trust,
Without trust, surely, there will be no peace.
This website documents the work of the students and faculty of what was to be the first academic department of comparative religions (German: Vergleichende Religionswissenschaft, Religionsgeschichte) in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan located at the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations of the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
The decision to establish programmes in Comparative Religions, Comparative Linguistics, and Comparative Civilizations at the Taxila Institute was the result of the ratification of a UNESCO resolution by the Government of Pakistan in Paris in 1997. Unfortunately, concrete progress in implementing this decision did not begin until 2005 when a project entitled “Upgrading the Taxila Institute” supported by the Higher Education Commission of the Government of Pakistan (HEC) was implemented. In 2007, within the framework of another project of the HEC, the Foreign Faculty Hiring Program, a professor of comparative religions, Prof. Dr. Hugh van Skyhawk of the University of Mainz, Germany, joined Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani (1920-2009) at the Taxila Institute and the work of creating curricula for the new courses of study began. Sadly, Professor Dani , the dean of Pakistani archaeologists, did not live to see the first students of comparative religions begin their studies in the winter semester of 2010-2011.
In February, 2010, a matching funds grant-in-aid of 362,000 Euros was committed by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany for the furnishing and external development of a new institutional home for the Taxila Institute. In March 2010, a 4X4 vehicle was purchased for the Taxila Institute with the proceeds of a generous grant from the Centrum for International Migration and Development (CIM, Frankfurt) and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ, Eschborn). In October 2010, with the proceeds of a grant-in-aid by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, 573 volumes of recent international scholarship primarily in the discipline of Comparative Religions was purchased and subsequently integrated into the seminar library of the Taxila Institute. To this end, a seminar librarian was appointed with the proceeds of an anonymous private donation.
In April 2009, an archaeologist, Prof. M. Ashraf Khan, was appointed director of the Taxila Institute and the UNESCO resolution which called for the establishment of departments of Comparative Religions, Comparative Linguistics, and Comparative Civilizations was committed to the oblivion of the university archives. However, student interest in studying comparative religions did not end with the transformation of the Taxila Institute from an independent inter-disciplinary academic institute to a university department of archaeology. Partially owing to student demands, the authorities of the Quaid-i-Azam University in their collective wisdom decided to initiate credit courses in comparative religions in the summer semester of 2010. In the winter semester of 2010-2011 the teaching of Sanskrit and ancient Greek (Attic) as “Epigraphic Languages of South Asia” was added to the curricula of new MPhil and PhD programmes in a broadly conceived course of study entitled “Asian Studies”.
In September 2011, the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany in collaboration with the Centrum for International Migration and Development (CIM, Frankfurt) and the recently established German International Cooperation (GIZ, Eschborn) extended their financial, material, and moral support of the professorship in comparative religions at the Taxila Institute for another year.
This website will be ‘Janus-headed’ in its contents and orientation with eyes set upon the understanding of the past and the forming of the future in Pakistan. The breadth and depth of three decades of field research in comparative religions will be surveyed in the visual library of the website. The articles, theses, and monographs of the students of the Taxila Institute which will be documented under the rubric “Publications” will point to promising future research in comparative religions by young Pakistani researchers. In addition, a gallery of current events will keep our visitors up to date on the activities of the students and faculty of comparative religions of the Taxila Institute, such as academic excursions, participation in conferences, and appointments to career positions in other universities and academic institutions.