2 events: Lahore, Rawalpindi
Lahore, Pakistan: report by Fr. Dr. James Channan, OP
The United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan and Peace Center Lahore organized a gathering to celebrate the Symphony of Peace Prayers and the inauguration of the Fuji Declaration, on 17th May at Peace Center Lahore. Over 100 people participated, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Men, women, youth and children were all present.
Mr. Yuel Bhatti welcomed all the guests and participants, saying that every year we celebrate the SOPP in Pakistan, in solidarity with Japan. He talked about the history and purpose of the SOPP and how the Fuji Declaration makes this year’s ceremony special. He remarked what a great honor it was for Pakistan to have Fr. Dr. James Channan OP and Maulana Syed Abdul Khabeer Azad presenting prayers at the SOPP ceremony in Japan.
The program began with prayers from different faiths, led by Rev. I.B. Rocky (Christian), Baghat Lall Khokhar (Hindu), and Qari Zawar Bahadur (Muslim). Sr. Sabina Riffat, Coordinator of the women’s wing of URI Pakistan, delivered a message from Fr. Channan, which reflected on the significance of the Fuji Declaration. This was greatly appreciated by the participants.
Mr. Sohail Ahmad Raza, Director of Interfaith Relations at Minhaj-ul-Quran, thanked Mr. Yuel Bhatti, Sr. Sabina Rifat and Mr. Ashar Nazir for organizing such a beautiful and peaceful celebration at the Peace Center. He expressed his appreciation for the dedication of the Peace Center team in promoting peace, and said that Minhaj-ul-Quran stands with the URI. He made the point that terrorists are not true adherents of any religious faith.
The students of Dar-ul-Hikmat Education Centre presented a powerful dramatic tableau in which they depicted innocent children who became the target of terrorists while studying in a school. Mrs. Mariam Sarfraz, Director of Education at Dar-ul-Hikman, expressed her feelings about the situation, and also recited a peace poem in Punjabi.
Miss Shamim Sehar, Youth Coordinator of the A Better Community for All (ABC4ALL) URI Cooperation Circle and Miss Nasim Sadiq, Youth Leader of the Lahore Cooperation Circle, recited the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi with all participants. Pastor Samuel Ilyas sang a peace song.
Syed Hussnain Gillani, Coordinator of the URI’s Islamabad Multiple Cooperation Circle, expressed his great appreciation for the performance by the students of Dar-ul-Hikmat and said that they reflected the true, sorrowful story, which is that terrorist acts destroy peace. As an educationist, he said, I feel that these innocent children are our future leaders.
Interfaith Advocate Shabnum Nagi remarked what a positive sign of unity it is that Fr. Channan and Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad are in Japan and giving messages of peace to the whole world, and that the URI and the Peace Center are celebrating the SOPP here in Pakistan. We need to unite to overcome violence and combine our contributions for peace and brotherhood, she said. Hafiz Mir Hamza and Arif Chishti offered similar remarks, saying that because we have so many challenges related to terrorism, we have to contribute our share for peace, harmony and brotherhood. All religions, they said, have a message of peace.
During the ceremony a colorful flag ceremony was also held to pray for peace in all countries and sing peace songs. It was very moving, and demonstrated unity among nations and cultures. All participants joined in, waving the flags of different countries.
A short video of the event can be viewed online at: http://youtu.be/5XXyG9K8NhY.
Rawalpindi, Pakistan: report by Yuel Bhatti
An SOPP gathering was organized in Rawalpindi, outside Islamabad, by the Ibteda Foundation Cooperation Circle and the Islamabad Multiple Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan. This event was attended by Husnain Gilani, head of the Ibteda Foundation, as well as school teachers, residents of Rawalpindi who live near the Ibteda Foundation’s school, and around ten boys and girls from the school.
Ms. Tasneem Saeed, Youth Trainer with the URI, presented a brief history of the SOPP, from its origins at Fuji Sanctuary in 2005 to its expansion around the world. Ms. Tasneem led the prayers by reciting the hymn “Make me an instrument of your peace.” In addition, a prayer was recited from the Holy Quran. The participants lit candles for peace throughout the world.