Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Finding peaceful ways to settle disputes and cope with the growing number of cases of intolerance, extremism and prejudice in society whilst emphasising the role "of the State, civil society and religion" inspired an interfaith seminar held in Faisalabad last Sunday, International Day for Peace.
Organised by the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) in collaboration with the Parish of the Assumption (Arooj-e-Maruim) and the Agency for Sustainable Development-Pakistan (ASDP), the conference saw the participation of more than a hundred people, Christians and Muslims, lay people, religious, teachers, catechists, students, parliamentarians, activists and pro human rights lawyers.
The speakers included Fr Nisar Barkat, director of the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, Sahibzada Zahid Mehmood Qasmi, secretary general of the Council of Ulema, lawmaker Akram Ansar, SAP-PK coordinator Iftikhar Ahmed and ASDP director Amina Zaman,.
Before the meeting, participants gathered in the church of Arooj-e-Maruim for a solemn Mass, during which the audience sang hymns and verses of peace, religious songs and prayers for peace.
Fr Barkat addressed a special intention for those who were hurt "in terrorist attacks" and prayed "for the unity and harmony among different faiths and ethnic groups."
For Amaina Zaman, to have real equal opportunities, one must ensure that everyone is included. "The majority must take into their own hands minority communities" to ensure their preservation and protection, she said.
Lawmaker Najma Afzal noted the suffering of those displaced by the floods, who deserve "moral and economic" protection.
Maulana Muhammad Yousaf Anwar praised the efforts "of the Catholic community around the world to promote peace and peaceful co-existence." He called on those present to follow" the teachings of Jesus Christ "when he says to" turn the other cheek" in case of offence. "Religious leaders must be united for peace and promote the protection of minorities," he added.
At the end of the seminar, participants passed a unanimous resolution in favour of a number of steps: appropriate measures for peace and harmony; a school curriculum cleansed of every source of hatred with a chapter that promotes peace and harmony; abolition of all forms of discrimination based on gender, religion, ethnic origin in the country's laws, policies and curriculum; a ban on discriminatory or offensive material in public or private media since information can play a "positive" role in the interests of peace and tolerance; and finally, some decisive action by the government to "eradicate the tendency towards violence, extremism and a wrong practice of religion."