Lahore: March 7, 2019. (Haroon Gill) All Pakistan Interreligious Leaders Conference took place at St. Mary’ Hall at Gulberg, Lahore under the topic of “Encounter of St. Francis and Sultan and Interreligious Dialogue Today” His Grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, the Chairman of National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism was the chief guest. The grand Imam of Badshahi Mosque Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap executive secretary NCIDE and Mufti Ashiq Hussian were the honorable guests. Fr. Benedict Ayoti OFM Cap secretary Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Rome, Italy was the main speaker of the conference.
In his address, Fr. Benedict said that that the year 2019 marks 800 years of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Kamil Muhammad Al-Ayyubi. They met in the midst of the conflict in the 13th century, particularly the 5th Crusade and had dialogue of life for peace. Both men of goodwill exchanged the greetings of peace when they met and realized that both want the same thing of peace. They accepted, respected each other with humility which led them towards the dialogue of peace and reconciliation. He also mentioned about the Holy Father Pope Francis visit to the United Arab Emanates which proved revival of peace, friendship and dialogue with the two big religions of the world; Christianity and Islam.
Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Fr. Clearance Hayat OFM Cap, Fr. Shahzad Khokher OFM Cap and Fr. Qasier Feroz OFM Cap responded the questions of the participants as panelists.
The grand Imam of Badshahi Mosque Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad expressed his desire for peace and assured his support and cooperation to continue the dialogue for peace and harmony. He gifted a book “Paigham-e-pakistan” (Message of Pakistan) to Fr. Benedict.
His Grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, the Chairman of National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism said that we need to promote the culture of acceptance and tolerance. He further stressed to continue mutual cooperation and respect in order to cultivate the seed of peace in the society and to produce ambassadors of peace.
At the end, Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap thanked all the guests and participants. He said that we all need to continue what St. Francis and Sultan initiated 800 years ago.
All the speakers also mentioned the need of peace between India and Pakistan as both countries cannot afford war. All came to an agreement that peace is the only way to prosperity and progress.
To mark this historical day, an olive tree was planted in the compound to express the need of peace in our surrounding. Fr. Inayat Bernard, Second Secretary NCIDE was the moderator. A good number of Muslim clerics, Muslim scholars, Catholic priests and pastors from other churches participated in this conference. The conference was ended with peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.