2 events: Lahore Peace Center and Lahore WAKE Home
Lahore, Pakistan (Peace Center): report by Fr James Channan OP and Faisal Ilyas
A group of over 150 dedicated Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs gathered at Peace Center Lahore on the 17th of May to pray for world peace and especially for those countries which are confronted with war, terrorism, violence and hatred. The event was jointly organized by the Peace Center and United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan.
Sr. Sabina Rifat, Women’s Coordinator for URI Pakistan, welcomed all the participants, and Mr. Asher Nazir, URI Executive Secretary, introduced the program. Fr Roccus Patras OP read a passage from the Holy Bible, Allama Masood Qasim read from the Holy Quran, Pandat Lal Khokhar (Hindu) read from the Bhagavad Gita, and Sardar Akash Sing (Sikh) offered a prayer from Guru Garanth Sahib.
I talked about the significance and impact of the Symphony of Peace Prayers, praising the vision and dream of Mrs. Masami Saionji, and telling participants about the marvelous gathering that takes place at Fuji Sanctuary, where thousands of people gather and offer prayers from many different religious and spiritual traditions. I expressed confidence that our prayers for world peace will bring forth positive results in our world, which is now faced with many challenges. Continuing the work of peace, I said, should be our prime responsibility.
A group of Dominican students sang a song to give a message of peace and love to the whole world. Ms. Tasneem Saeed read a special message from Mrs. Masami Saionji to the SOPP ceremony in Lahore. Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad remarked how blessed and encouraged he was to see so many people celebrating this day of peace prayers. He shared his memories of taking part in the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary along with Fr Channan, greeted with joy and applause by the participants. He commented that our journey to build peace in the world started many years ago, and we will keep on spreading it around the globe.
Youth leader Shahbaz Khan led us in reading the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “Make me a channel of peace,” together with all 17 URI Coordinators. All participants recited the prayer, demonstrating our unity in building peace. It was a moment of great spiritual renewal. Sardar Akash Sing, a young Sikh man, commented that every religion offers a message of love and acceptance. We should live like a family, he said, because we are brothers and sisters.
Sr. Sabina Rifat received a bouquet for her leadership in the Soul of WoMen campaign, and also presented a peace poem. Dr. Munawar Chand, a Hindu leader, talked about his work building peace and harmony over the last 40 years. Mr. Osman, as Sudanese national and Chairman of the Ibteda Foundation in Islamabad, expressed his appreciation for the work of interfaith dialogue and peace building, including the SOPP. He remarked that we should all continue the process of peace building in our respective capacities. Other speakers included Ms. Yasmin Joseph from Caritas International, Ms. Shabnum Nagi, Advocate of the High Court, and Zubair Ahmad Farooq, Coordinator of Lahore MCC and former Global Trustee of the URI.
Toward the end, all participants were handed a national flag and asked to pray for that country, while a Dominican singer sang a peace song to show that we are all one. The flag ceremony created an atmosphere of great jubilation and peaceful coexistence. At the end of the program, a delicious supper was offered to the guests.
Lahore, Pakistan (WAKE Home): report by Asher Nazir and Peter Malaki
On May 22nd, we celebrated the Symphony of Peace Prayers, the Soul of WoMen campaign, and the seventh anniversary of our WAKE (Women and Kids Education) Home in Lahore. Sr. Sabina Rifat, Coordinator of WAKE and the Women’s Wing of URI Pakistan, organized the event.
15 youth members, men and women from various places, took part in the event. The guests were from the Christian and Muslim faiths. The youth leader of WAKE welcomed all the guests, and Asher Nazir, Executive Secretary of URI Pakistan, gave a brief introduction of the Symphony of Peace Prayers and Soul of WoMen. In addition, the message from Masami Saionji to the Pakistan SOPP was read aloud.
Asher Nazir congratulated Sr. Sabina on the seventh anniversary of the WAKE Home, where many children and women from different religions and denominations are getting education and skills training, and for her great work in promoting interfaith harmony, peace, and the rights and dignity of women in Pakistan.
Pastor Ayub Bhatti gave a message about how we can work together in peace and love, despite being from different creeds and denominations. After the prayers, participants shared their views on how Sr. Sabina had inspired and guided them to raise their voices for equality and against injustice and domestic violence. As a gift of appreciation, Sr. Sabina was presented a bouquet of beautiful flowers.
Sr. Sabina also thanked the participants for attending the event, and for doing their best to promote equality and interfaith harmony. Through your struggles, she said, positive change is coming in the lives of women, youth, and children. Through our combined prayers, harmony and peace can come to this beautiful world. She expressed her gratitude to Masami Saionji for her great vision, and thanked the staff at Byakko who work so hard on this annual event.
We celebrated the occasion with cake and a festive dinner. Many participants said that they thoroughly enjoyed the evening.