12/03/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Card. Tauran opens a centre for interreligious dialogue in Lahore

by Nirmala Carvalho
Enthusiasm of Christian and Muslim leaders. The President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious dialogue met President Zardari.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - On 28 November in Lahore the Dominicans Peace Centre was inaugurated, with the participation of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, Grand Imam of the Badshahi mosque in Lahore, as well as many Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Baha'i faithful. Father James Channan, prior and Vice Provincial of the Dominicans, speaks about the event exclusively to AsiaNews.

"His eminence - says father Channan - His Eminence expressed his great joy and appreciation at this occasion of the Peace Centre. He said, the Peace Centre is not an institution, nor a library where you can find books and magazines. It is a centre for men and women looking for harmony and peace. What strikes you when you enter in this centre are the colours. Here every thing is harmonious. Peace is harmony. First of all we have to build it in ourselves. Peace begins within ourselves. Peace begins in our families. His Eminence said, as believers we have three challenges. First of all the duty of self identity. We have to accept ourselves, who we are and what we believe in."

"The second [challenge] is that our personal identity exists only in relationships with others. We need to understand the specific differences, for enrichment. The other person is my brother or sister. The third challenge is our intention. Believers must not give up the faith, but we have to proclaim our faith with freedom. We must not impose our faith on others, but offer it to others".

Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, Grand Imam and Global Trustee of United Religions Initiative (URI), having paid tribute to the bishops and priests who work for peace and harmony, expressed joy at seeing so many personalities participate in an event he called "historical ". "I can hear - he said - the powerful nature of peace and love among all people present here. The teaching of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, teaches us to spread peace and harmony among all. We work for this noble cause. "

During his trip to Pakistan, on Nov. 25 card. Tauran met President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad. The cardinal, on his return to Italy on 1 December, said that Zardari "showed great attention to the Holy See's position with regard to freedom of religion" and "formed a committee chaired by the Minister for Minorities, which the aim of reviewing the blasphemy law i even n view of its possible repeal. " Card. Tauran also appealed for a pardon for the Christian Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws.

Father Bruno Cadore, Superior General of the Dominicans, sent a congratulatory message to the Dominicans, expressing his joy for the new Peace Centre and stressing "the importance of interreligious dialogue, which has been established in all our recent General Chapters (in 1986 in Alila and 2007 in Bogota) Dialogue, as many chapters have reminded us is one of the priorities of the Order today and of the Church, especially with Islam". He also recalled the teaching of Pope John Paul II that "Inter-religious dialogue is a work desired by God and an integral element of the church's evangelizing mission”. "Through dialogue, we make God present among us, because when we open ourselves to another, we open ourselves to God."

Masami Saionji, president of the World Peace Prayer Society, also expressed "great admiration" and "warm congratulations" for this Centre, the first of its kind in Pakistan.

Bishop William E. Swing, President of the United Religions Initiative, said that the Centre is a community of peacemakers. "

"The Peace Centre - father Channan explains to AsiaNews, a Pakistani priest who studied in Rome from 1982-85 at the Pontifical Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies - was a dream for the Dominican friars in Pakistan. The first Dominicans in the area came from Italy in 1931". "These brothers promote dialogue between religions and cultures, especially between Muslims and Christians around the world. All the last General Chapters, held in Mexico City, Province, Bogota and Rome, the importance and urgency of interreligious dialogue was stressed". "The Dominicans are dedicated to the apostolate in Pakistan for the past 50 years and this has borne much fruit."

"The Peace Centre - says the priest, author of "Christian-Islamic dialogue in Pakistan" and executive secretary of the National Christian-Islamic Commission for about 20 years – will allow them a greater commitment to promote this fundamental work at every level". "In a country that has 96% Muslims and only 2% of Christians, interfaith dialogue is a key factor for the Dominican missionaries. Today when the future looks very gloomy, and people feel helpless, we as Christians and Dominicans in Pakistan play an important role, that of bringing hope to our people. "

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