Islamabad :It was a lovely convergence of followers of different faiths in Pakistan under one roof in the cosy confines of the Multi-Purpose Hall of the Islamabad Club, chattering amiably. There were Muslims, Sikhs, Bahais and obviously the hosts, Christians who were brought together by the Pakistan Interfaith League (PIL) for the ‘Interfaith Christmas Dinner’.
And it felt so good when everybody present joined in the prayers offered by leaders of different faiths to mark the occasion, led by Christian prayer offered by Bishop Ishaq Zafar, followed by the first prayer from Guru Granth offered by Sardar Satwant Singh, the Bahai prayer offered by Dr Seema and in the end a recital from Holy Quraan by Mr Ghulam Mustafa.
Leaders of each faith present at the dinner spoke briefly but with conviction to inculcate interfaith harmony, the importance of taking steps to promote tolerance, love and harmony in the multi-faith and the multicultural society. To make efforts to shun hatred and violence on the basis of faith and join hands to work for the development and prosperity of the people sans cast, color and creed and the country.
It seemed to be a long list of speakers, most of whom narrated pleasant experiences from their lives or quoted from the holy books, highlighting that each religion has preached love, peace, tolerance and harmony and not hate or violence.
The PIL Chairman, Sajid Ishaq, spoke passionately for making greater efforts to shun hatred, bring in acceptance and harmony and respect for each other. He spoke about joining hands to help the deprived and marginalized segments of the society and strive to create opportunities for those who are equal in the eyes of God but are unable to get their desires fulfilled and reach the goals they aspire for in their lives.
“There are those people around us who are denied of their basic needs and rights because they are living in poverty. They have the talent that, if supported and promoted, can help them achieve their objectives. Their numbers are not small. They are in big numbers and they need our help with discrimination on the basis of their faith,” Sajid Ishaq said.
Sajid Ishaq also mentioned that before becoming Prime Minister, Mr Imran Khan, had always been a great supporter of PIL and had attended the ‘Interfaith Christmas Dinner’ in the past.
Ms Nazia Ansari, the Executive Director of PIL, who also is running the Interfaith League Against Poverty (ILAP) to help the poor segments of society, conducted the programme. She also expressed the wish to do away the word ‘minority’ used to describe religious groups from the dictionary in Pakistan.
“I wonder as to why we use the word ‘minority’ to describe any religious group here. They could well be called Pakistani Christians, Pakistani Sikhs, Pakistani Bahais or any other instead of being referred to a minority community here. They are Pakistanis and should be acknowledged as such,” Ms Nazia Ansari said.
And, somehow, the issues of Edwardes College of Peshawar also echoed at the Christmas Dinner when Bishop Humphrey Peters from the Diocese of Peshawar voiced his concerns about nationalizing the historic Christian educational institution in Peshawar.
He was, indeed not pleased, with the unconstitutional decision taken by the Governor of the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhawa to nationalize Edwardes College and demanded its immediate return to the Church.
“The KPK Governor should immediately rectify the mistake he has made, otherwise I am going to go on hunger strike right from the day of Christmas!” he announced.
Prominent among the guests attending the PIL Interfaith Christmas dinner were the former Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal (r) Sohail Aman, Lt-Gen (r) Talat Masood, Maj-Gen (r) Samraz Salik, the Head of USAID in Pakistan, Senator Anwar Lal Din, Maulana Sharif Hazarvi, Dr Nadeem Abbas, Allama Haider Alve, Mufti Gulzar Naeemi, the Deputy Head of Mission of Romania, Deputy Head of Mission of Tajikistan, the Political Officer US Embassy, the President of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) KPK and a few Senators.