Posted by: Titus Presler | December 9, 2011

Interfaith seminar catalyzes engagement among Edwardes students and faculty

Participation by Edwardes College students and faculty recently in an interfaith seminar has catalyzed fruitful inter-religious discussion in our college community, especially important today in the wider environment of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan generally.

Eight students and and two faculty members attended the one-day seminar, “Interfaith Dialogue: A Grave Need of the Time in Pakistan,” organized by the Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi, the twin city to Islamabad.  The stated purpose of the seminar was to help nurture awareness among people in Pakistan about religious harmony, peace and the need for dialogue. 

The seminar was attended by about 80 people, who included Muslims both Sunni and Shia, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, and the Edwardes delegation represented a similar diversity.  Edwardes College was one of several institutions of higher education invited to participate in the seminar, another being the International Islamic University in Islamabad.  The Edwardians were enthusiastic about meeting new people from various backgrounds and participated enthusiastically in the discussions.  The two faculty members who accompanied the coeducational student delegation were Salman Ahmad, Lecturer in Professional Studies, and Julia Pervaiz, Lecturer in Psychology.

The seminar featured two speakers, one Christian and one Muslim, and discussions of their talks.  Participants reported that Khursheed Nadeem, a Christian, emphasized that diversity beautifies life even in the case of religions; we should respect and appreciate the differences among people; and peace is a mandate that must be propagated by all people concerned about the health of society.

Aslam Khaki, a Muslim, was reported to have pointed out that our psyche is the culprit, not the religion, in inter-religious conflict; fundamentalism exists everywhere and is found in practically all religions; and the purpose of interfaith dialogue is not necessarily to bring the religions into harmony but their followers into harmony.

The participating Edwardians experienced the seminar as thought-provoking and enlightening, so much so that one of the speakers subsequently was invited back to the college and spoke about religious tolerance and intolerance to a packed audience.  The group traveled by college transport to Rawalpindi on the Monday of the seminar  so that they could get to know the other invitees at dinner that evening and so that they would be rested for the Tuesday session.  Accommodation was provided at the centre, which also paid all expenses for participants.

Inter-religious engagement appears to be the major emphasis of the Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi, and that is a major contribution in the Pakistan of today.  On a recent visit there of my own I happened on another inter-religious group whose participants had been convened from a number of regions of Pakistan, including Sindh and Baluchistan.   This is crucial work.

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