The Quest for Peaceful Interfaith Co-existence” was the title of an international conference held in the Pakistan capital. It was sponsored by the Universal Nexus for Interfaith Trust & Engagement (UNITE). Christina Lee, a Korean focolarina, was one of the speakers.
“A strong message of peace and friendship” was the goal of the event, held on 24-25 November in Islamabad, which was largely achieved and defined by the organizers as being “unprecedented in the history of Pakistan”. It was a conference that was sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony in order to focus on issues relating to religious minorities in the country and to engage in dialogue with international experts regarding methodologies applicable in conflict situations. The conference gathered scholars and religious leaders from 26 countries. The Pakistan delegation included various representatives of these religious minorities (Christians, Hindus, Sikhs) and a number of young ulema Muslim scholars, since the formation of young people in projecting a correct image of Islam is one of the priorities of UNITE.
Msgr. Joseph Coutts of Karachi, President of the Episcopal Conference, and Msgr. Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, as well as members of the Commission for Justice and Peace represented the Catholic Church.
In his address, the Federal Minister Yousaf emphasized that the message of all religions is love, and that Islam is the religion of peace, but that its real aspect is damaged by sectarianism. These words were echoed by the president of UNITE, Mufti Abu-Huraira Mohiuddin, reiterating that extremist organizations are contrary to Islamic teaching. The President of the Senate, Raja Zafarul-Haq, stated that the bloodshed in the name of religion causes chaos and that religious harmony is the only solution that can address global issues. These were the declarations that emerged from the conference, and they sounded even stronger given the gravity of terrorism.
Christina Lee, a Korean focolarina who has a wide experience in interreligious dialogue, illustrated through examples and experiences of dialogue carried out by the Focolare in various parts of the world, pointed out that in order for there to be a meaningful dialogue, it is important to draw on the spiritual values which enable us to be faithful to our religious identity and at the same time to be open to building relationships with people of other faiths. A Pakistani Muslim leader who knew Ms Lee from meetings held by “Religions for Peace”, proposed to collaborate with the Focolare in its commitment to dialogue, and so did the Sikh representative from Karachi. A South African Muslim speaker reiterated concepts from her speech in his address.
In the final resolutions, UNITE announced the opening in Islamabad of a platform for inter-religious dialogue, sponsored by the government, in order to implement the proposals reached at the conference. It also expressed its commitment to eradicate disharmony between religious communities which distort religion. Another objective of UNITE is the implementation of the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, as provided in the Constitution, and to convey to young people, through the social media, the unifying force of religion.