On 21st of September which is declared an International Day of Peace by the United Nations, a befitting program was organized to celebrate this IDP at the Dominican Peace Center in Lahore. It was jointly organized by the two leading peace and interfaith dialogue organizations in Pakistan; namely United Religions Initiative (URI) and National Council for Interreligious Dialogue (NCID). There were around 250 peace lovers, religious scholars and members of the civil society, from the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Baha’I religions participate in this program and to assure their commitment to a peaceful and harmonious Pakistan and the world. There was also a large number of women, youth and children for this event of IDP celebration. The Church of Pakistan Moderator, Bishop Samuel Robert Azriah presided over, whereas, Arshad Bin Ahmad, Secretary, Human Rights and Minorities Affairs of the Government of the Punjab Province was the Chief Guest. Fr Pascal Paulus OP, Prior Vice Provincial of the Dominicans, Rana Asif Mahmood, Member of the Provincial Assembly and Mr. Faizur Rehamn Durrani, resident President of the international organization Minhajul Quran were the Guests of Honor.
Fr James Channan OP, URI Regional Coordinator, Pakistan welcomed the guests and shared the significance and history of IDP. He said the whole world and particularly our country longs peace and respect, tolerance, religious freedom and dignity of every human person. Our country which is going through a very tough and challenging situation of law and order and for that we need to play our role to make our country an abode of peace and respect for all. Our country is deeply disturbed by ethnic and religious violence, terrorism and militancy. Our government also must do more to control and the curb the wave of terrorism. He also emphasized that URI is an international organization working in 78 countries to bring healing, reconciliation and to promote peace and interreligious dialogue.
Fr Channan also read the message of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations for this occasion in which Mr. Ban said that “Peace is our mission; our day-to-day quest. This year’s theme focuses on the timely issue of peace and democracy. Democracy is a core value of the United Nations. It is crucial for human rights. It provides channels for resolving differences…… The world needs you to speak out: for social justice and freedom of the press….”
A very moving and inspirational drama on current social issues and imperative need of peace and interfaith harmony was directed by Ms. Razia Malik and performed by the Dream International Society drama club. Ms. Malik is a famous drama write and producer at Pakistan Television. Her drama and performance of all actors was highly admired and applaud by the audience.
Ms. Jocelyn Saeed and Sr. Sabina Rifat, URI Women Coordinator Pakistan recited their beautiful poems on the theme of peace, harmony and justice. A couple of songs were also sung by various singers. St. Joseph Church Choir presented hymns at this occasion.
Bishop Samuel Azariah highly appreciated this program. Such programs and common efforts to make our society peaceful, tolerant and loving is need of the hour. However, he lamented on the current violent situation of Pakistan and said that we are waiting for a Messiah to bring us out of the terrible situation we are confronted with. After his speech, Bishop Azariah presented “Golden Rule Award 2011” to Fr James Channan which has been given by interfaith network of Finland. Mr. Faizur Rehman Durrani, congratulated Fr James Channan and Fr Nadeem Francis OFM Cap, the organizers of this program. He said such celebration and programs are much needed and we need to very broad minded for such peace activities. He assured full support of his international organization; Minhaj-ul Quran for interreligious dialogue programs. He said he was scheduled to go for an eye operation today but he has postposed his appointment with the Eye Surgeon so that he could come for this celebration of International Day of Peace. He was deeply touched and moved by this celebration. Fr Pascal said that may this evening bring peace in Pakistan and he assured of his full support for such programs and said may the dove of peace bring healing to our society.
Mr. Arshad Bin Ahmad, on behalf of the Provincial Government of Punjab, congratulated the organizers and participants of the IDP celebration and said that such programs bring fresh breeze of love and peace and if there are people of such approach and philosophy than we need not to be worried, for a positive change will certainly come and we will have a peaceful culture. On behalf of the Government of the Punjab he distributed “Letter of Appreciation” to about one dozens leaders of URI, NCID and other eminent personalities who are working to promote interreligious dialogue and peace.
Towards the end of the program, Fr Nadeem Francis, National Coordinator NCID, thanked all the guests and participants. He wished that government should have organized such programs both at the provincial and national level – which he does not see to have taken place in Pakistan. He highly praised this program and very proudly said that this the largest program which has taken place in Pakistan to celebrate International Day of Peace. Mr. Yuel Bhatti, Executive Secretary of the URI was the Stage Secretary of this program. At the end of the celebration festive dinner was served to all the dignitaries and guests.
Fr James Channan OP
URI Regional Coordinator Pakistan
23 September 2011