11/26/2021, 18.13
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Conference on the future of interfaith relations held in Lahore

by Shafique Khokhar

The event, organised by the Centre for Social Justice, brought together representatives of Pakistan’s civil society and various religious communities. For Church of Pakistan Bishop Azad Marshall, it is important to go beyond the conference itself and look at root causes.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A National Conference on the Future of Interfaith Relations was held on Tuesday in Lahore under the auspices of the Centre for Social Justice, an advocacy association that brings together experts from various sectors to promote the rights of marginalised groups in Pakistan,

Representatives of civil society groups, activists, lawyers, journalists, political officials and leaders of religious minorities took part in the event.

Bishop Azad Marshall, moderator of the Church of Pakistan, stressed the need to learn from the successes achieved by the University of Al-Azhar in Egypt and the Centre for Friendship in the United Arab Emirates, following the signing of the controversial Abraham Accords between Israel and some Gulf states.

Bishop Marshall also highlighted the importance for political leaders to go beyond the conference itself and look at the root causes shaping the complex relationships between communities.

“Pakistan has always been home to multiple cultural, ethnic and religious communities," said professor and economist Qais Aslam. Its constitution “recognises the right to equal opportunities for everyone,” he added.

This means “respecting the diversity of culture, ethnicity, gender and religious beliefs” in order to build “a more progressive and economically viable Pakistan where our children can live in harmony and peace.”

For lawyer Saroop Ijaz, “our constitutional framework provides a template for peaceful and harmonious co-existence – unfortunately not all of our laws adhere to that framework. That has to change. The implementation of existing laws needs to be improved.”

For sociologist Rzivi Jafree, “there is a complex linear relationship between the low socio-economic status of religious minorities in Pakistan and high levels of religious intolerance. Addressing and improving tolerance through interfaith harmony is the first step forward to improving the status of religious minorities in the country.”

Finally, Fr James Channan, a well-known peace activist, spoke about the importance of interfaith dialogue.

In his view, “Encounters among people of different religions are a must to overcome the tensions and divisions” that cause “violence, hatred and discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and religion in our society.”

To this end, an interfaith approach an “help create a tolerant and peaceful civil society,” he explained. Meanwhile, “Our government has already taken some steps towards this,” but “needs to do much more to make our country very peaceful and harmonious.”

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