A dialogue on interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence was held at a local hotel in Lahore to discuss practical steps to prevent and minimize tragedies like the Jaranwala incident.
The conference was conducted by the Christian Study Centre, Rawalpindi (CSC), in collaboration with the Ecumenical Commission of Human Development (ECHD), the International Peace Council Pakistan, and the Youth Commission for Human Rights.
Religious leaders of different faiths, members of civil society, activists, and journalists participated in the discussion.
While expressing his views, CSC Senior Project Officer Basir Nayyer said that the Jaranwala incident has damaged the atmosphere of interfaith harmony between Christians and Muslims. “Our biggest challenge is the mob mentality. This is an effort to understand our differences, take practical steps at the individual and collective level for peaceful coexistence, and promote confidence-building measures,” he added.
On this occasion, all participants unanimously condemned the tragic incident of Jaranwala and expressed grave concern about the rise in incidents of discrimination and extremism.
Shia Ulema Council Secretary Qasim Ali Qasmi said religion was clearly misused in Jaranwala, stressing the need to follow the teachings of Islam, which teach peace and love.
Yasir Talib of the Centre for Social Justice said there were mostly underage boys in the mob that vandalized Christian settlements in Jaranwala on August 16.
He termed twisted religious teachings, increasing depression, joblessness, and biased education as the primary reasons behind mob mentality. “The energy of youth must be channeled, and cosmetic changes won’t solve underlying issues,” he added.
Rev. Samuel B. Massey Presbyter Gulberg Presbyterian Church cited examples of living interfaith harmony, referring to Boston, where hundreds of Muslims gather weekly in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul's sanctuary for Friday prayers.
He also referred to Nazimabad and Faisalabad, where a mosque and a Catholic church stand together on a road and even share the same wall.
Pir Saeed Gilani urged parents to focus on the character-building of their children according to the teachings of the Holy Quran to promote tolerance and peace in society and stressed the need to conduct frequent interfaith events.
Activist Dia Chaudhry urged religious leaders to raise their voices against injustice and coordinate like-minded groups.
CJAP Patron Kashif Nawab said the message of peace and harmony must be taken to the grassroots.
Hafiz Nauman said, “We all need to make collective efforts to spread peace among all religions.”
Ecumenical Commission of Human Development (ECHD) Executive Director James Rehmat stressed the need to focus on the youth bulge in Pakistan and promote “Paigham-e-Pakistan.”
“At the moment, 64% of the population is under 30, and 29 percent of Pakistanis (who we classify as the youth) are between the ages of 15 and 29. This gathering is an opportunity to create space for them to thrive,” he mentioned.
He stated, “In 2018, the government launched the Paigham-e-Pakistan,” a document signed by 1,829 religious scholars—belonging to nearly all mainstream sects in the country—that declares several actions un-Islamic. These, among others, include suicide attacks against the state, spreading sectarianism and anarchy in the name of religion, and issuing a call to “jihad” without the consent of the state.”