International Day of Peace Celebrated at Peace Center, Lahore Pak

On 20th of September, 2014 a very meaning and significant ceremony was organized at Peace Center Lahore, Pakistan to celebrated the International Day of Peace. There were 100 guests. The Chief Guests of the ceremony were His Grace, Sebastian Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore and a very famous Muslim religious leader and promoter of interfaith dialogue Allama Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, whereas, Prof. Kazy Javed presided over. There were more than 100 guests presented from all different cities of Pakistan. 

The ceremony opened with recitation from the Holy Quran and Holy Bible. This followed the introduction of the significance of UN International Day of Peace words of welcome by Mr. Javaid William, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism. He announced that our International Day of Peace is jointly organized by 6 well-known and respected organizations. He also declared that during the program the launching ceremony of the book of Fr James Channan OP “Path of Love: A Call for Interfaith Harmony” will performed.

The message of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of United Nations was read by Ms. Zoya Maria, - young leader of URI. In his message Ban Ki-moon said “ Each year, on this day, the United Nations calls for a global ceasefire. We ask combatants to put down their arms so all can breathe the air of peace. Armed conflicts cause untold grief to families, communities and entire countries”. He further said that peace and security are essential foundations for social progress and sustainable development….. Peace a long road that we must travel together – step by step beginning today…. Let us all reflect on peace – an what it means for our human family.” 


 

After this Ms. Tasneem Saeed, URI Youth Trainer, read special message of Victor H. Kazanjian Jr, Executive Director of URI. In his message Victor said, “ The International Day of Peace serves as a call to action for all who are committed to a vision of a world in which the values of compassion and kindness, justice and mercy, friendship and love are the guiding forces in our thoughts and actions towards one another. For URI, this is a time for each one of us to live out our purpose,’…. To promote enduring daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace……” He also said that May this day be one of reflection and inspiration, calling each of us to action as a peace seeker every day of our lives.”

Both of these messages from the international leaders were received with great admirations and appreciation. These message set the mood of the celebration of International Day of Peace.

The Archbishop of Lahore, His Grace, Sebastian Shaw congratulated all the dignitaries and audience for organizing such an impressive program. He said that let each one of us make a decision that from today the International Day of Peace onward each one of us will commit that I will hate none and I will walk on the path of love and peace. Super Powers take pride in making weapons of destruction to express their superiority over the other. But we need not such weapons of mass destruction and war. We need to make our thoughts and what we say weapons of reconciliation, justice and peace. With the weapons of war you may win countries but you cannot win hearts. Let us win hearts of each other and make us human bonds so strong which cannot be broken. Commenting of the book of Fr James Channan, he said I have written the Preface of this book and I am very happy that such a book is published in our country. It will serve as a tool of interfaith harmony, respect and love for all. He congratulated Fr Channan for writing such an impressive and though provoking book. 

Chief Guest of the celebration, Allama Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi - a very famous Pakistani Islamic scholar, religious leader, very vocal in speaking for the rights of Christian and Hindu minorities, promoter of interfaith dialogue and peace, while speaking at the International Day of Peace said global peace can be acquired only when oppressed and marginalized people will get their rights and justice will be given to them. When our leaders will come out of masks they are wearing and double faces which people have. We must not hypocrites but true to ourselves and fair to others. He lamented the miseries of Hindu, Jewish and Christian minorities in Pakistan. He gave the example of Jewish grave yard in Karachi which needs special care and attention that it must be well protected and people of religions must be given equal rights. There should not be any discrimination in the name of religion. He said he does not like word Aqliyat “Minorities” used for Pakistani Christians and Hindus and other small minority groups. It gives the impression as they are second-class citizens. All must be treated as equal citizen and there no one should be discriminated on account of his/her religion. He also lamented the misuse of blasphemy laws and how Christians are persecuted on account of the misuse of this law. He gave example of Joseph Colony in Pakistan that how a dispute developed because of drinking liquor between a Muslim and a Christian friend and how on mere false accusation entire Joseph Colony was attacked and over 170 houses of Christians were destroyed. He said, “Being a member of the Islamic Ideology Council Pakistan I will propose to the government of Pakistan that there must severe punishment for a person who falsely accuse the other under blasphemy laws.” Asrafi seemed optimistic that this proposal will be accepted.

Hafiz Ashrafi admired the hospitality and solidarity of the Christians towards Muslim in Palestine, when Gaza was attacked. He said that these were Christians who opened their churches to Muslim for shelter, to offer prayers, keep fast and break fast during their holy month of Ramadan. He said such a gesture of love, concern and hospitality has set a significant example of Christian- Muslim dialogue. He also confessed that it was a down syndrome teen ager Christian girl Rimsha Masih who brought conversion to his life. He could not keep quite any more when this girl was falsely accused of blasphemy and he spoke out very loudly and came out in defense of her. As a result she was released from prison and now she is leading a free life. 

Hafiz Tahir said that this International Day of Peace reminds us that we must promote peace at all levels of life. He highly appreciated the role of URI and other organizations in Pakistan for promote peace and harmony. He admired leading role of Fr James Channan OP in promoting peace and interfaith harmony. He performed the launching ceremony of Fr Channan’s book and said we need such books to reach every person in Pakistan. He said that such kind of programs should take place in all cities and colonies in Pakistan so that it reaches grassroots level. 

Fr Pascal Paulus OP, Prior Vice Provincial of the Dominican Order is Pakistan congratulated all the guests and organizers of this beautiful program. He said our world cannot survive without love. That is also what we read in our Holy Scriptures that “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He also said we have to find our ways of peace and harmony to make this world worth living. Commenting on the book he said that fr James Channan is our pride and he has dedicated his life for interfaith dialogue, harmony and peace. Fr Channan has shown us the path in his book which leads to universal solidarity and oneness. We must face the challenges to peace and harmony together and overcome them by putting our heart and souls together. 

Several other prominent personalities such as; Prof. Kazy Javed, Allama Zubar Abid, Rev. Dr. Maqus Fida, Ms. Shabnam Nagi, Rev. Dr. Majeed Abel, Allama Mustaq Hussain Jaffary, Fr Inayat Bernard and Allama Zahid Mehmood Qasmi spoke at this occasion and gave message of peace, surfaced the challenges of violence, extremism and fundamentalism our country and world is faced with and how we can make this world better through acceptance and respect of one another by promoting peace and harmony among us. 

Fr James Channan thanked all the participants for making event a great event. He also shared what made him to write his book “ Path of Love: A Call for Interfaith Harmony’ and how he decided to put several of his lectures and reports which had given in various international universities, forums and conferences around the globe. To write this book was his life-time dream which became a reality and it is a very rare – probably the first book written on this topic. 

Towards the end beautiful video presentations on PEACE, prepared by Mr. Simon Suleman were presented on multi-media and received a lot of applause and admiration. The Dominican student brothers also presented very inspiring peace song. The program concluded with delicious supper offered to all participants which was well managed by Mrs. Neelum Anari URI member and his team. 

This program was organized by the following organizations:

1.    URI Pakistan
2.    Peace Center Lahore
3.    Catholic Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism
4.    Council for Interreligious Dialogue
5.    Peace and Harmony Network Pakistan
6.    Global Mission Awareness

Sr. Sabina Rifat Women Coordinator, URI Pakistan & Mr. Yuel Bhatti, Executive Secretary, URI Pakistan were the master of ceremony and program went very well and admired the participants. There were several TV Channel Covered the celebration while Geo TV and Express TV flash on air alive celebration. 

Reported by:
fr James Channan OP
URI Regional Coordinator Pakistan

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