The Promotion of Peace and Interfaith Harmony
While all of the world’s major religions preach the message of peace, unfortunately it is a reality that tensions do exist between the proponents of these religions. These will often manifest as religious controversy or inter-faith and intra-faith conflict. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the founder of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, has, however, been at the forefront of efforts to enhance understanding between the Christian and Muslim communities and build bridges between their respective followers. Through his personal statements, numerous lectures, speeches and publications, he has created an environment where the rights and sentiments of the Christian minority are respected by the wider community. And his message of tolerance, universal brotherhood and love is being propagated by Minhaj-ul-Qur’an Centers throughout the world in a variety of ways such as the promotion of interfaith dialogue, and visits of Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Baha’i Faith, Zoroastrians or Hindu places of worship.
In order to promote the interfaith relations and harmony, Sheikh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri established the Directorate of Interfaith Relations at the Minhaj-ul-Qur’an Pakistan International secretariat on 20th of March 2008 and appointed senior graduate of Minhaj University Lahore, Mr. Sohail Ahmad Raza (Minhajians) as its Director.
The basic responsibility of the Directorate is to develop better relations between the followers of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha’i Faith and Zoroastrian faiths. Moreover, the Directorate will take practical steps to protect the rights of those who follow these religions and to promote religious harmony by participating in their religious festivals.
The Directorate for interfaith relations at Minhaj-ul-Qur’an Pakistan International is committed to strengthening its relations with various religious representatives and religious organizations in Pakistan. It also recognizes the importance of relations with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican City Rome, and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury UK.
In order to develop better understanding among world religions, in 2016, Sheikh-ul-Islam, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri also established the School of Religions and Philosophy at Minhaj University Lahore. Fr. Dr. Herman Roborgh, a Christian scholar from Australia was appointed as the first Head of the Department.
In line with the message of peace and tolerance taught by Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Directorate of Interfaith Relations of Minhaj-ul-Quran International organizes regular gatherings and joint programs in order to highlight the mutually shared values of the Christian and Muslim faiths and promote inter-religious cooperation and harmony. Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri took the unprecedented step of allowing Christians to worship inside the Minhaj-ul-Quran Masjid on 15 March 2002, a bold and symbolic gesture in recognition of the right of freedom of worship of Christians and their friendship with Muslims.
On that occasion, Bishop Andrew Francis, Chairman of Christian Coordination Council, Catholic Church of Pakistan Multan Diosics said “Today, in the history of Pakistan and the Subcontinent, is the first time that a Muslim scholar has welcomed members of the Christian community. Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri has opened the doors of Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque for us to pray. He has begun a new chapter in inter-religious relations.”
Christmas is of course a special time for Christians, and in recognition of this fact, Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri sends out Christmas cards to prominent Christian organizations and personalities, a unique practice among prominent Islamic scholars. Christmas programmers’ are held all over the world at Minhaj-ul-Quran centres attended by Christian bishops, priests and other dignitaries, a measure of the esteem Muslims have for Christian faith and practice and a reflection of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s own message of religious tolerance and universal love and respect for humanity.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, he also established the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum on 9th November, 1998. Director of Interfaith relations Minhaj-ul-Quran International (Pakistan) with other senior office bearers attend religious festivals, seminars, conferences and cultural or musical events organized by the religious organizations to promote religious harmony and interfaith dialogue.
Directorate of Interfaith Relations, MQI, was recently the recipient of Interfaith Harmony and Peace award from Christian organization and Archbishop of Pakistan, which recognized its contribution to the promotion of peaceful relations and dialogue between the Christian and Muslim faiths.
MQI adopted the London Declaration for Global Peace & Resistance against Extremism 2011 at the Peace for Humanity Conference, under the supervision of Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, at the Wembley Arena in London, on 24th September 2011, and endorsed by the Grand Shaykh of Al-Azhar Dr Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, The World Association of Al-Azhar Graduates and religious representatives of all faiths, scholars, politicians, and 11,000 participants present from all around the world.
Recent decades have seen the world’s great faith and cultural communities torn apart by misunderstandings and mistrust to such an unfortunate degree that people of good intentions towards each other are now compelled to declare their unequivocal rejection of the beliefs and activities that divide them and their unreserved embrace of the beliefs and activities that unite them.
We, the signatories to this ‘London Declaration for Global Peace & Resistance against Extremism’, affirm that all humans everywhere possess inherent dignity and immutable rights: these including freedom from poverty, oppression, fear and prejudice and freedom of belief, worship and expression.
This declaration is being launched by Muslims for the Muslims of the world and for the rest of humanity.
- We the signatories to this declaration send a message of peace and fraternity to all of humanity’s innumerable states, nations, communities and individuals along with a call for respect, dignity, compassion, equality, solidarity and justice for, and between, all people.
- We address our call for peace, tolerance and respect to all people everywhere, but especially to political and religious leaders and decision-makers as well as to scholars, teachers and journalists.
- While we recognise the unique differences between faiths, cultures and communities, and we recognise that all people gain happiness and identity from what they consider to be unique, we declare that all humans everywhere possess immutable rights and values that transcend all political boundaries and philosophies and are inherent and important in all religious faiths and creeds.
- Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and those of other religions, along of course with all people who do not identify with any faith, must enjoy the same civil and legal rights and freedoms and be able to live in peace and harmony and must pursue peace only through mutually respectful engagement and dialogue.
- We reject unequivocally all terrorism because at the heart of all religions is a belief in the sanctity of the lives of the innocent. The indiscriminate nature of terrorism, which has in recent years killed far more civilians and other non-combatants than it has combatants, is un-Islamic, un-Judaic, un-Christian and it is indeed incompatible with the true teachings of all faiths. Because of its manifestly indiscriminate and therefore murderous nature, we condemn all terrorism in all forms and in all countries regardless of any claimed religious and political intentions.
- We unequivocally reject, disown and condemn all terrorism committed in the name of Islam, just as we reject and condemn all terrorism committed in the names of other religions or causes. Terrorism is never a legitimate and honourable act of war but is always a cowardly act of indiscriminate murder.
- We reject as mistaken and spurious any assertions made by both Muslims and non-Muslims that the world is currently locked in an inexorable struggle between Islam and the West and we commit ourselves, through positive and mutually respectful engagement and dialogue, to oppose any and all claims of clashes of civilisations or the incompatibility of the values in various regions, states and communities.
- We support efforts by international agencies, governments and communities to protect the world’s citizens from terrorism; we commit ourselves to assisting in the de-radicalisation of those groups and individuals who might mistakenly believe that their religion tolerates indiscriminate and wanton violence.
- Whereas we do not overlook the real or perceived grievances that may serve as a causative fuel for terrorist violence — and we call upon all national and local governments to address those grievances with haste and resolve — we commit ourselves to the non-violent resolution of those issues as well as to the removal through education and dialogue of conspiracy theories that seem to blinker some peoples’ worldviews.
- We welcome the wave of popular and generally peaceful uprisings against tyranny and oppression known as “the Arab Spring” and we recognise that it is a rights-based, not religion-based, movement which is compatible with the universal human rights and aspirations mentioned above.
- We call on all international agencies and governments to support with clarity and resolve the liberty-motivated Arabs, Berbers and other Muslims and we call upon them to do so in a non-martial, impartial, transparent and well-communicated manner that will enhance trust and establish bonds of good will.
- We the signatories to this declaration believe that the too-long-running conflict between Israel and Palestine needs to be resolved urgently and with scrupulous fairness.
- We affirm the necessity urgently to resolve this conflict so as to provide both the Palestinians with a sovereign pluralistic and representative state and the Israelis with national and local security. If it is to be permanent and durable, the peace agreement between Israel and Palestine must be fully and actively supported and protected in a non-partisan fashion by the international community and its terms must be equally beneficial to the citizens of both states who have for so long feared and mistrusted each other.
- We call for the promotion of human rights, fundamental freedoms, equality between men and women, and the cardinal values of humanity such as reconciliation, forgiveness, generosity and solidarity.
- We declare that there is no difference between an Arab and a Jew, between a Muslim and a Christian, between a Hindu and a Sikh, between a black person and a white person, or between a man and a woman. All humans are equal and must be treated with equal respect, dignity, compassion, equality, solidarity and justice.
- We unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism (including when sometimes it is disingenuously clothed as anti-Zionism), Islamophobia (including when it is sometimes disingenuously dressed up as patriotism) and all other forms of racism and xenophobia.
- We call on all Muslims and other minorities living in the West to respect all the laws of the country in which they are living whether they possess the status of citizen or resident.
- We call on the Muslims, the governments and the elites of the West to promote integration and citizenship, the only solution for peaceful co-existence and cohesion.
- We call on all governments to protect minorities against all hatred, intimidation and violence, especially from ultra-nationalism or religious intolerance.
- We call for increasing aid for Africa, and other impoverished regions and nations of the world, in order to improve their living conditions, provide socio-economic and political stability, and realise the objectives of true democracy.
- We call on the financial powers to introduce more humanity in their economic considerations. After both world wars, the stability of the European states is crucial for the world.
- We call on the world governments to increase efforts for the alleviation of poverty, to combat illiteracy, proliferation of weapons, and threats to our natural environment.
- 11,000 participants at the Peace for Humanity Conference support this London Declaration for Global Peace & Resistance against Extremism.
- Finally, we the signatories to this declaration call upon all people everywhere to express their agreement with our beliefs, expectations and aspirations by adding their own signatures to the declaration, which will be found online on www.minhaj.org/eid/14940