13 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Muslim, Christian youngsters visit ruins of Harappa; tracing peace, peaceful coexistence

Ecumenical Commission for Human Development and Christian Study Center organize visit of archaeological site a day after workshop in Lahore on developing a culture of peace and harmony

Muslim and Christian youngsters visited ruins of Harappa – an archaeological site about 24 kilometers west of Sahiwal – to study world’s earliest urban civilizations, as well as promoting peace, and peaceful coexistence in Pakistan.

As many as twenty-eight participants, mostly students, visited Harappa Museum near the archaeological site – often called the Indus Valley civilization. Ecumenical Commission for Human Development and the Christian Study Center joined hands in organizing exposure visit held a day after a workshop on developing a culture of peace and harmony at Hotel One in Lahore.

Irfan Mufti says ‘nurseries of extremism’ triggered irreconcilable differences between various religious communities

The youngsters made vlogs, inquired about the history of artifacts and enjoyed folk songs by local musicians at a shrine. The tour was held a day after the workshop where the speakers urged participants to become an agent of change, peace and harmony among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding.

South Asia Partnership (SAP-Pakistan) Deputy Director Irfan Mufti explained the geo-political turmoil and its impact on marginalized communities. During the session, he informed the audience that ‘nurseries of extremism’ planted in 80s triggered irreconcilable differences between various religious communities, including majority community.

“I believe that politics is now ‘infected with aggression.’ We can easily observe that ‘fear’ and ‘uncertainty’ are causing brain drain,” he said, adding that it seems that the ‘entire’ country was presently under mortgage. He said that the only peace can attract foreign investment for economic growth and development in Pakistan.

Irfan Mufti suggested that the state should invest in growth and unlock the power of religious traditions and provide inspiration and guidance to young people to move towards non-violent attitudes. Center for Health & Gender Equality (CHANGE) Program Manager Muhammad Pervaiz urged all to discover a solution to avoid current crisis.

“We used to share festivities of Eid, Christmas, Diwali and other festivals but this trend is on decline,” he said, and pointed out that everyone became a minority when the state came under the control of a faith. “Resultantly our society is now plagued by conflict, violence and instability,” he told the audience.

Bishop Samuel Azariah urges religious offices to inject cultural values in their followers

Christian Study Center Director Bishop Samuel Azariah urged all the participants to use culture as a tool for peace building and shared values. “I am sorry to state this that ‘religion’ has become a reason for violence and conflict due to differences and contradictions.” He said that religious institutes never tried to inject cultural values in their followers.

“We remain limited to following rituals and stopped focusing on values that unite us and bring a common ownership,” he said. Focusing on sports, food, festivals and folk music can help bring change and revive the composite heritage, he said. “We must remember that brainwashed ‘religious’ leaders cannot help us in experiencing spiritual growth,” he said, adding that even heads of state sometimes ignore inclusiveness.

Haroon Gill, an academic, urged all to accept people as they were, with no shaming of their culture or traditions, their clothing or even their bodies. “Human dignity is supreme. Youth empowerment can influence the society where everyone is wearing masks. Trust can only be built in a favorable environment. Success is the culmination of decisions and actions. We need peace with each other and nature,” he said.

Irfan Mufti suggests state to unlock power of religious traditions and provide guidance to youth to move towards non-violent attitudes
Irfan Mufti suggests state to unlock power of religious traditions and provide guidance to youth to move towards non-violent attitudes

“This is the first time I am experiencing being a ‘minority’ in a Christian majority group,” Areej Shafaqat, a 23-year-old student of the BS Gender Studies, told the audience after reciting ‘Naat’ in front of a group of participants from different faiths. “I am really enjoying presence of people from different religions communities,” she said.

“Holding sessions on peace is trending in Pakistan but I thank the bishop for not targeting a specific religion. We can understand that power, not religion, is to blame for our predicament and ‘extremist’ narrative,” she said. “It seems that the state failed in implementing laws,” she said, adding that the parliament as the supreme institution also ignoring public interest.

For Yasir Javed, vice president of the Sacred Heart Cathedral youth body, visiting the Harappa site was a life changing experience. “I was inspired by the Harappa Museum and the stories it told throughout the history. It was a thrilling and learning experience to care for creation and the people in our surrounding,” he said.