14 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Faith leaders, activists seek dialogue following recent violent attacks on Christians, churches

Christian Study Center official Basir Nayyer calls ‘mob mentality’ a biggest challenge; says attacks on Christians and churches, desecration of Holy Bibles in Jaranwala breach a trust, and damage interfaith harmony

In collaboration with the Ecumenical Commission of Human Development, International Peace Council Pakistan and Youth Commission for Human Rights, the Christian Study Center invited religious leaders, civil society activists and journalists from different religions to suggest practical steps to prevent and lessen tragedies similar to recent mob attacks in Jaranwala region of Faisalabad district.

The participants shared their recommendations during the dialogue on interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence, held at Hotel One in Lahore’s Gulberg area. Christian Study Center Senior Project Officer Basir Nayyer said that the recent tragedy in Faisalabad has breached the trust and damaged the atmosphere of interfaith harmony between Muslims and Christians.

The participants of the dialogue unanimously condemned the tragic incident of Jaranwala and expressed their concern on the growing incidents of discrimination and extremism. “Our biggest challenge is the mob mentality. This is an effort to understand our differences and take practical steps at individual and collective level for a peaceful coexistence and promote confidence building measures,” Basir Nayyer said.

Christian Study Center invites religious leaders, and activists to join a dialogue on interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence
Christian Study Center invites religious leaders and activists to join a day-long dialogue in Lahore on interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence

Speaking on the occasion, Shia Ulema Council Secretary Qasim Ali Qasmi pointed out ‘misuse’ of the name of a religion in Jaranwala. “There is a real need of policy change and act upon the acts of Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him). “Almighty Allah sent Prophet Isa Ibn Maryam (peace be upon him) and the last messenger Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace be upon him) for the mission of peace,” he told the audience.

He asked all the citizens to continue the sacred mission of peace with due responsibility. “I am not sure but I have to admit it that some of Muslims in our country ‘lack’ proper knowledge of true Islamic teachings,” he said. “We all observed that Muslims across Pakistan openly and frequently condemned the recent attacks in Faisalabad and supported their country fellows from Christian community.”

Advocate Yasir Talib says twisted teachings, depression, joblessness and biased education system will make situation worse

Center for Social Justice representative Advocate Yasir Talib said that a ‘leaderless’ mob of mostly comprising of young people raided Christian settlements in Jaranwala on August 16. “Those arrested included 19-year-old teenagers who had no idea of the terror charges and its implication and were hell bent on seeking ‘spiritual’ merit,” he said.

On the occasion, he pointed out that twisted teachings, increasing depression, joblessness and biased education system will make the situation worse. He also suggested that energy of these teenagers and young people must be channelized. “We must remember that cosmetic changes won’t solve underlying issues,” he said.

Presbyterian Church of Gulberg pastor Samuel Massey cited examples Boston where hundreds of Muslims gather weekly in the Cathedral Church for Friday prayers. Also, he referred to Faisalabad and Peshawar cities where a mosque and a church stand together on a road and even share the same wall.

In his speech, Islamic scholar Pir Saeed Gilani urged parents to focus on the character building of their children according to the teaching of the Holy Quran to bring tolerance, acceptance, peace and peaceful coexistence in the society. On the occasion, he urged on the need to have frequent events and conferences on the topic of interfaith and intrafaith.

Dia Chaudhry, an activist, urged religious leaders to raise their voices against injustice and inequalities in our society and support like-minded groups. “We have to accept this reality that male voices are louder in our society,” she said, adding that they (male leadership) should play their active role. She urged social media groups to help in an effective coordination between communities.

Christian Journalist Association of Pakistan patron Kashif Nawab thanked speakers from mainstream community for sharing grief of Christian community. He pointed out that politics was the ‘only’ topic dominating Pakistan’s national and local media. He also suggested that the message of peace and harmony must be taken to the grassroots.

James Rehmat asks faith leaders to focus on youth potential, and create a space for youngsters to thrive

World Council of Religions (WCR Pakistan) Executive Director Hafiz Muhammad Nauman Hamid appreciated efforts of interfaith dialogue, and said education system and syllabus must be accordingly that promote peace and peaceful coexistence as well as bring tolerance and acceptance. “We have to teach our younger generation to coexist with all communities and accepts everyone around them,” he said.

Ecumenical Commission for Human Development (ECHD) Executive Director James Rehmat suggested the audience to focus on youth potential and promote Paigham-i-Pakistan – a government-backed edict to counter terrorism and extremism. Through Paigham-i-Pakistan, Islamic scholars from various schools of thought unanimously declared terrorism, extremism, suicide attacks, and killing someone forbidden.

“At the moment, 64% of Pakistan’s population is under 30, and 29% of Pakistanis (who we classify as the youth) are between the ages of 15 and 29,” James Rehmat shared data with the audience, and asked the faith leaders and activists to create an open space for the young people to thrive. He also asked young people to focus on their personality development, and their rights, besides advocacy and policy dialogue, research and networking.

Allama Asghar Arif Chisti, Allama Syed Kazim Ali Kazim, Mufti Ashiq Hussain, Allam Ghulam Abbas Jalali, Sardar Gurmeet Singh, Wajahat Batool, Mehmood Ghaznavi, and other prominent leaders and social activists also joined the dialoge and shared their opinions on peaceful coexistence.