Many people come into our PEF Interfaith Workshops having no prior knowledge or understanding about interfaith dialogue and its significance in society. Today, we highlight the story of two interfaith graduates and religious leaders–one Christian and the other Muslim. The prominent Muslim leader shared with us his views about the PEF Interfaith Workshops as he reflected on his own experience.
““I had no prior knowledge or understanding of peace building and interfaith harmony. These ideas were foreign to me. My madrasah teachings and mind-set did not enable me to develop any relationships with Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. When I attended my first interfaith workshop, it completely changed my views and introduced me to a promising vision of interfaith dialogue.” ”
Through this workshop, both the Muslim and Christian leader have extensively engaged interfaith communities at the grassroots level by applying the peace building tools introduced to them in the workshops. In order to spread peace-building activities on the local level, they conducted various workshops, seminars, peace promoting festivals and poster competitions in different areas of Lahore, Kasur and Karachi. As a result, they have built strong relationships with the Muslim and Hindu communities by enhancing their participation in these programs and establishing a diverse team of representatives from those communities. They also arranged exposure visits to worship places (i.e. madaris, churches and temples) and facilitated constructive peace building debates in different areas around the Sindh province. Along with other PEF alumnae, including Christians, Sikhs and Hindus, they also established the Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony in Karachi in 2010. Further inspired by PEF’s mission, they also went on to develop a peace-building curriculum to educate and train others on how to increase their capacity and leadership abilities.
The Christian religious leader knew how important it was to use his position of power to reduce faith-based violence.
“PEF interfaith workshops have given me a vision to promote interfaith harmony within the community. As a religious leader, it made me aware of the power of my platform and enabled me to bridge the gaps between diverse faith based communities”
As a gesture of interfaith solidarity, both leaders have responded to local community conflicts by visiting areas where religious hate-crime has taken place, such as the arson attack on Joseph Colony and the lynching of the Christian couple in Kasur in November 2014. A month later, a personal dispute occurred between two young boys from Muslim and Christian communities in Lahore, which took a religious turn when a Muslim mob gathered at the scene. Luckily, two of PEF alumnae, along with other companions, called on religious leaders to defuse the situation and also brought police to the scene. In the past, similar arguments between Muslims and Christians have often resulted in violence, arson attacks and killings in Christian residential communities. However, quick thinking and swift action by PEF graduates resulted in the conflict to be defused between the Christian and Muslim communities. Besides mitigating religious conflict, PEF alumnae have raised concern over several issues, such as victims falsely accused of blasphemy, targeted sectarian killings in different areas of Pakistan, and the Peshawar school massacre that occurred in 2014.
Due to their continuous work and dedication, the religious leaders have developed strong ties with all Islamic schools of thought and faith-based communities. Today, they enjoy partaking in festivals and significant religious holidays like Mawlud-ul-Nabi, Christmas and Diwali with the Muslim and non-Muslim community.