LAHORE -  The concept of living together is very important for human race to exist peacefully on the earth and extremism, hatred, and discrimination on the basis of religion are anti-human ideologies.

These were the remarks given by scholars, academicians and diplomats associated with US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium (UPIC) during a three-day conference on the theme of ‘Building Bridges: Discovering the Foundations for Interreligious Harmony, hosted by University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore.

The speakers further said that responsible citizens are now looking into ways and means to interact with one another for finding meaning in human life and securing the future of humanity. Religion is a source, which connects human beings and brings them together under the sunshade of humanity. The current extremist rhetoric pronounced by the US leadership and the circumstances followed by Brexit are predicting a bleak and uncertain future. Extremism, hatred, and discrimination on the basis of religion are anti-human ideologies. Extremists are interpreting religion in their own way and they are deceiving the world. Islamphobia is a rising issue in the western world and the political leadership needs to ponder over it finding new solution. Similarly, xenophobia, which is fear and hatred of foreigners in the western world, is hindering peace and harmony.

The post 9/11 scenario changed the course of history causing disastrous consequences and now the leaders must come out with an alternative strategy to promote peace and harmony. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of love who guaranteed the rights of followers of Christianity and Judaism. The Pact of Madina introduced by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the first ever charter of humanity granting recognition to human rights. It is time to eradicate all anti-human ideologies especially the one, which is taking its roots from religion. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are Abrahamic religions that could save the drowning boat of the humanity and convince their followers to understand one another, and live peacefully. Think-tanks, scholars and the political leadership of Pakistan and the United States need to make collective endeavors to end tensions escalated out of political fissures.

Radical interpretation of Islam must not be allowed.

Speakers said that despite improvements in security and economy in Pakistan, tensions continue to grow between the governments of Pakistan and the United States, which is not good for the people longing for an egalitarian society. Islamophobia is on the rise in the United States, Britain, France, Australia and other Western countries. They said that violence against minorities in Pakistan is hinting at uncertain future. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism need to find similarities rather than difference. Their followers should be convinced at the intersection of faith and reconciliation so that all sorts of stereotypes are wiped out paving way for real democracy and goodwill.

They said that indigenous society in the United States is the beauty of American society, which must set an example for rest of the world to follow.

Addressing the conference, US Council General Mr Yuriy Fedkiw said that the US government believed in interfaith dialogue to take place among the followers of all faiths. He said extremist narrative was putting the future in danger.

Expressing his views, Mr. Robert Chase, the founding Director Intersections International welcomed the participants and said that US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium was connecting people bringing them closer to each other.

The notable Muslim scholar, Imam Malik Mujahid said that interfaith movement should address all social, cultural and political issues.

On the occasion, Rector UMT, Dr. Hasan Sohaib Murad said that US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium was promoting dialogue between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He said Islam is the religion of peace and the religion of humanity. He said UMT was committed to learn and do research on the interfaith as it was useful for the faculty as well as students. “Faith helped us in finding meaning in our beings that where we came from and where we are to return. Faith brought accountability and excellence to us”.

Robert Chase said, “We are bringing people together; build relationship between the two countries.

Punjab Minister for Higher Education Mr. Syed Raza Ali said that no faith allowed hatred, intolerance and malice against followers of other religions. He said the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed the rights of minorities and no one could deprive any individual of these rights on the basis of religion.

Dr. Hans Kochler said that interfaith harmony faced many challenges that needed to be addressed by adopting a realistic approach. He said extremists interpreted the religion in their own way and they were ignorant and thus deceiving others. He put forward the suggestion that the only way to coexist peacefully was possible if people give up arrogant behavior.

Former diplomat Shamshad Ahmad said Pakistan had played a key role in engaging composite dialogue, which was a way forward to reject extremist narrative. He said there was misconception in the world that Muslims were extremists and that perception needed to be changed. He said Muslims had been subject to regime change where they had been deprived of welfare and freedom. He said for Pakistan terrorism was the biggest challenge, which Pakistan was eradicating. He said Pakistan had paid a heavy price that no any country had done. He said Pakistan had survived crisis. “The day we were born, we have been experiencing the threat of survival,” he concluded.