by: Victor Edwin SJ
Islam Studies Association (ISA) and Interfaith Relations Minhaj-ul-Quran International
(India Chapter) jointly organized an interfaith program “Together We Build Peace”
on April 26, 2015 at Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School, Old Delhi. The
program was aimed at bringing together some of the practitioners of dialogue so
that they can know one another, learn from one another; so that they can work together
for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice. The organizers also thought it would be good
to listen to children and learn from them what they think is ‘key’ to peace. Around
sixty people from different Muslim organisations, students from Jamia Millia Islamia,
students from Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School and Young Men Christian
Association (YMCA) trainees attended the program.
Joe Kalathil SJ, a member of ISA spoke about the mission that he received from
the bishop to work on a cross-border reconciliation project between India and Pakistan.
He said that he was truly surprised and did not know how to go about in dealing
with such an extremely sensitive issue because of its overwhelmingly political dimensions.
However, he said, he considered that the call to work for peace is a grace: the
gift of his faith as a Christian and a priest and a responsibility that comes with
such faith commitment.
He said that the process started with establishing Peace Clubs, and helping students
to work for peace. He said that peace is an experience of Allah/God in one’s heart.
He continued: “If you promote that experience, you will be at peace. It is a gift
from God and you need to pray to receive it. Every day when you get up, pray to
God for the gift of peace. Furthermore you must develop a spirit of concern for
others if you want peace. You must have a spirit of sacrifice; and every day, you
need to make a small sacrifice”. He also promoted cross border student contact.
This involved writing letters. Indian children and Pakistani children write letters
to one another exchanging peace and good will emphasising the importance of peace
for prosperity of both the countries. He also encouraged his listeners to start
peace clubs in their schools and places of work. He told his audience not to doubt
the possibility of peace in peoples coming together. He calls the peace process
in which he works with children as ‘Pakistan-India Friendship Forum’.
Mr Junaid Khan coordinator of the Interfaith Relations Minhaj-ul-Qur’an New Delhi India noted
that a large number of Muslims condemn violence on religious as well as humanitarian
grounds. Many Muslim leaders do speak out against violence unhesitatingly. Media
often ignore such voices and give prominence to those ‘sound bites’ that come from
hate preachers who stir up violence. Often Muslims who condone violence do NOT cite
religious reasons for their approval of violence but overlook violent activities
of their fellow Muslims on political rationalisations accusing the USA and its allies
of controlling the world.
Some among those who condemn violence hold a different view with regard to suicide
bombing and attack against civilians in Israel. For an example, internationally
prominent and influential scholar Yusuf Qaradawi on the one hand condemned September
11 terror attack on the USA and on the other hand regarded suicide bombing against
Israel as legitimate. The conflicting position is obvious. While many mainstream
Muslims get confused with such conflicting positions of Muslim scholars, non-Muslims
suspect that such conflicts might have roots in the Qur’an and Hadith.
It is the context he, Mr Junaid discussed peace initiatives arising from spiritual
resources of Islam. He said that MQI was founded by Shaykh ul Islam Dr Muhammad
Tahir-ul-Qadri in the year 1981 with a long term vision to promote peace, love and
harmony. MQI strives, Junaid said, “to promote peace, tolerance, interfaith harmony;
to promote education, integration and working for community cohesion; to engage
with young Muslims for religious moderation, to promote women’s rights, development
and empowerment; and provide social welfare and promotion of human rights”. He threw
light on the services of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri for promotion of peace and interfaith
harmony in the world.
Fr Tom Kunnunkal SJ, the President of Islamic Studies Association emphasised
that diversity whether in nature or among humans, is part of the very design and
mystery of God. God has no borders and boundaries. Hence, he noted that ISA is one
of the important initiatives taken by the Catholic Church in India for dialogue
with Muslims in India. He affirmed that the focus of ISA is to enable Christians
to understand, appreciate and enter into friendly relationship with their Muslim
brothers and sisters, namely engaging in dialogue of life. He noted the following
as three major objectives of ISA: In the name of God and His ever greater service,
to promote national integration of all Indian cultural, social and religious groups
and support Government programs for this purpose … To work towards harmonious
relations among Muslims, Christian, Hindu and other religious and social communities
… To promote study, research and teaching regarding the history, religion, culture,
socio-economic conditions and other aspects of Islam.
Every participant responded to the presentations on the real-work-on-the-ground
by these organisations and also spoke about their own take on peace. Everyone said
that they recognized the importance of peace within one’s own heart and within societies
in which they live. Many young school students who were present in the meeting noted
that if peace is lost … humanity is lost. They stressed that they all belong to
one family: the family of God. They emphasised ‘humanity’ is the ground on which
we should build peace. Though they did not articulate what they meant by ‘humanity’
as ground for building peaceful society, the present writer has the impression that
they seem to indicate that ‘human rights, human dignity and freedom of conscience’
are the firm ground on which we can build peaceful societies. It is amazing to realise
that youngsters seek human dignity above everything else. It should be said without
any hesitation that human person is at the centre of their reflection. Their comments
indicate that everyone needs to listen to young people and their wisdom; because,
they have something to offer to today’s world that is broken into pieces due to
hatred and war.
In this short meeting we discovered that there are people who are interested
in working together with others for peace. The initiatives come from everywhere:
Muslims and Christians, young and old, and they all complement to each other. It
was also noted in the meeting that plurality in creation as well as in the way of
life of individuals and communities needs to be acknowledged, cherished, respected
and protected. It emerged very clearly that human rights and human dignity are the
elements that lay the foundation for a sustained dialogue between Christians and
Muslim and their common responsibility to work for peace, reconciliation and justice
in the world.
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