Leaders from different religious communities, social activists and diplomats at a multi-faith conference have called for efforts to promote interfaith harmony and said it is crucial to peace and development of a society.
The Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony (ICPH), in collaboration with the American Muslim and Multifaith Women's Empowerment Council (AMMWEC), organised the International Religious Freedom and Interfaith Harmony Conference 2021 at a local hotel on Tuesday to discuss the importance of tolerance in the public and political spheres.
Religious scholars and leaders from various faiths, including Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Parsi and Bahai communities, diplomats of various countries and social activists from different walks of life participated in the conference.
Nasir Hussian Shah, the provincial minister, said ending extremism and sectarian violence required dialogue between people of different groups. “To achieve this goal, the government has been planning to organise training sessions for imams, preachers, teachers as per modern requirements and standards of society,” he said.
Rob Silberstein, United States consul general, who attended the event virtually, said interfaith harmony was an important idea in a multi-religion society. “There should be well-managed arrangements for religious coexistence in all parts of the globe. The ability to practise one’s faith freely goes to the heart of what it means to be human,” he said.
Bakheet Ateeq Alremeithi, UAE consul general, said the unique religious landmark symbolises the state of peaceful coexistence and human fraternity experienced by all communities living in the UAE, regardless of their nationalities, beliefs and religions. “The new landmark will symbolise the state of coexistence and human fraternity experienced by people from various ethnicities, nationalities and beliefs in the UAE,” he said.
Allama Imam Ahsan Siddiqui, ICPH’s chairman, said that with the support of Ulema and Mashaikh, his organisation had been playing an effective role to keep a check on the misuse of the blasphemy law; therefore, on account of hearsay, any objections to violation of religious freedom in Pakistan should not be made.
He said all religious parties had agreed that forcible conversions could not be made and all such incidents were being seen on a case-to-case basis. Siddiqui also said that Ulema had been playing an effective role to restrain underage marriages and coordination was being made in this regard among the representatives of different religions, sects and the government.
Cardinal Joseph Coutts, the Pakistani prelate of the Catholic Church, said: “We are very lucky to get the opportunity for disseminating love and peace. If we observe the principles of mutual respect, we can avoid hurting people.”
He suggested that leaders of different beliefs and scholars should pay visits to places of worship of other beliefs to further promote social, cultural and interfaith harmony.
Anila Ali, AMMWEC’s chief, said it was not just the responsibility of religious leaders but of all actors of the civil society. “In the past, there have been incidents of religious hatred incited by politicians for electoral gains,” she said.
At the end of the event, a declaration and a pledge were signed by all the religious scholars, civil society members, and all the attendees as a commitment that they would be the active agents to promote interfaith harmony, love and respect among practitioners of various religious beliefs for the peaceful coexistence of mankind.