Saba Trust Organizes Memorable Interfaith Conference
By Mrs Zainab Javed

Although we have held many interfaith conferences since the first one at the Sacramento State College in California, USA, in which twenty-five countries representing every single religion on earth participated, the Saba Trust Interfaith Harmony Conference on March 4, 2011 was by far the most successful one held by the Trust. The list of participants was long and impressive and many attendees unhesitatingly described the conference as a concourse fulfilling ‘the need of the time.’

 

The stage secretary - Mr. Jamil Asgher Bhatti, DREAM Chief Executive - is a speaker par excellence. He also happens to be a poet and succeeded in artfully connecting the threads between all the addressees and adding enlightening comments to emphasize and drive home the prime aim of the conference: to connect, bond and pledge interfaith friendship and cooperation.

 

The turnout was overwhelming in terms of the diversity and multiplicity of people and organizations that graced the event with their presence, comments and contributions. Saba Trust took the lead in this endeavor by honoring and supporting the call made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to celebrate an International Interfaith Harmony week globally in the first week of February every year. The call was made this year and the Saba Trust was quick to respond in keeping with its tradition of organizing interfaith moots for decades. The Trust held a preliminary mini conference on the 6 th of February at which it chalked out elaborate details of what was to follow on March 4 at the Islamabad Club. Mr. Kazuo Tase, United Nation Information Center’s acting director, graced the occasion and impressed the attendees with his well-meaning candor and marked penchant for fostering global understanding and peace.

The long list of registered guests that day would readily convince everyone of the importance given to the conference by government officials, international NGOs, multi-religious representations, media and news agencies, etc. From small TV stations and newspaper journalists to the most popular, best-known news channel – CNN - everyone was present.

 

Many guests made personal contacts with the organizers and insisted that they should be contacted when the next interfaith event was organized as they wanted to follow up and be a part of this laudable and noble undertaking. A directory of the registered guests was prepared to keep the ‘membership’ informed of succeeding activities as well as sharing and seeking different views on optional joint events and related programs.

 

Saba Trust Chairman Saghir Ahmed Aslam thanked the attendees for attending the conference. He condemned the deplorable act of March 2 nd of the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities. Mr. Aslam observed one minute of silence and prayer for Mr. Bhatti who was expected to be a speaker at the June 4 conference.

 

SOME comments of speakers:

 

 

Mr. Zargul Khan, MPA, thanked Saba Trust chairman, Mr. Saghir Aslam for organizing the conference. He also praised King Abdullah of Jordan for passing a resolution urging interfaith adherence. He said that our world is in a crisis which can be addressed by joint efforts only. There is a pressing need to join hands against violence and terrorism that threaten all faith groups. Interfaith harmony is achievable if there is a firm commitment and sincerity of purpose, he remarked.

Mufti Wasee-ur-Rehman, Islamic scholar, said that the need for interfaith harmony is mentioned in the Qur’an with clarity. It is stated in the Holy Book that we are born from one man and one woman. God made us in different groups only for identification. The Qur’an says, “Come to that point which is the same for all.” Instead of criticizing others, we should look at ourselves. Every right belongs to ourselves; respect all rights, then there will be peace.

 

Mr. Mushtaq Victor, Ex-Federal Minister for Minorities, made a pertinent and practical suggestion by stating that interfaith harmony is a very sensitive issue and that we were all gathered at the Conference because we all believed in interfaith harmony. Peaceful co-existence can only be achieved through interfaith harmony. He suggested that interfaith harmony should be added to educational curriculum so that the concept is embedded in the mind and practice of individuals early. “Let’s make this interfaith dialogue a meaningful dialogue!”

 

Mr. Anoop Singh Jaggi, Adv. Sikh Community, thanked the Chairman of Saba Trust for initiating the much needed interfaith dialogue. In our global village the basic message of the pioneers was to show respect to all mankind! All religions spread love and respect for all of humanity. The media should take necessary steps as well.

 

Mr. Haroon Sarab Dayal, Hindu Rights Movement, commented that now is the time to do something, not in the future! We must work at the grassroots’ level for a good and morally sound future. We all are Pakistanis, all are equal before Allah. All institutions should include the subject of interfaith harmony in the curriculum. In Pakistan we all need religious freedom.

 

Mr. Peter Cheng, Political Advisor from the American Embassy, gave his speech time to Mr. Kazuo Tase of the United Nation’s Information Center. “The Japanese community is friends of Pakistan. I am here to convey strong support to Saba Trust from the United Nations. I admire this strong invitation for this work of interfaith. I like to accord the decision by the General Assembly to promote the easing of tensions in world security, economic enhancement. Education is not related to schools only. The role of education is extremely important. We should start focusing on what we have in common and then we can find a way to do things together. Interfaith dialogue is the hope for the best future possible.”

 

Ms. Naila Jay Dayal from the Christian Progress Movement congratulated Saba Trust on raising such an important issue. He posed the question, ‘How to get rid of interfaith misunderstanding and differences?’ and furnished the answer: by showing respect for all! We do not know how to respect? Now I believe that the time is near when all will be respected. Here are differences; there are differences in every aspect of life. Am I not Pakistani? Is it right to consider women ‘a half’? Is this interfaith and social justice?

 

Dr. Ghazanfar Mehdi, Sufi Council, congratulated the chairman of Saba Trust on the interfaith initiative. “This is the most successful gathering! Here in Pakistan there is always interfaith harmony and it will remain here forever. Different governments make the National Sufi Council for Interfaith but until now there has been no work on it. The media should promote interfaith.”

 

Faisal Karim Kungi, Deputy Speaker of the House, thanked the Saba Trust for the interfaith initiative. “I condemn the loss of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti; his space will never be filled! The area to which we belong is the Shia – Sunni are full of differences. I always see this as the unfortunate reality. We should go at the root cause of it and eradicate the problem. I really acknowledge our security forces who work with such limited facilities and resources. After 9/11 the ground for suicidal attacks got so strong. Attacks on several levels all at one time. This is only to destabilize Pakistan to avoid peace. The need is to clean our heart. Ground problems should be solved to bring peace. I appreciate more dialogues on such issues to come from Saba Trust.”

The Conference was adjourned with a remarkable prayer led by the representatives of different religions together to emphasize equality and unity under one Creator and one God!

Saba Trust Overview: Saba Aslam Education & Welfare Trust is a non-profit organization that was conceived in 1965when it opened a medical clinic at Kamalia, near Faisalabad. Saba Trust has been providing humanitarian and development assistance to people by implementing community and social services in the areas of Relief Programs, Health Care, Interfaith Collaboration, Educational contributions and work for the poor since its inception some 46 yrs ago. Many people started talking about Interfaith after 9/11. But Saghir Aslam, Chairman of Saba Trust, started his first Cosmopolitan Club in 1957, where 25 countries joined and he was elected President. The Club became a regular source of funding for scholarships. The interfaith seminars and collaboration programs have been many since and are continuing.

 

Saba Homes (where we honor orphans) is a ‘child’ of Saba Trust which is a home for orphan girls. It is being successfully run as a ‘World Class Orphanage’, that raises girls to be highly responsible and productive members of the society while growing up in an environment of homely love and support. Saba Homes seeks to transform and advance Pakistan by developing the human capital of its people. Saba Homes invests in the least advantaged of Today to promote the most advanced Peace-loving Leaders of Tomorrow. “Build strong Pakistan to achieve world peace with dignity, honor and grace for all.” We have 46 years of transparent, impeccable track record. We did not solicit any donation for the first 40 years. We have worked with over 100 organizations in Pakistan; over a dozen non-Muslim US-based organizations are interacting in co-social-humanitarian ventures with us on an ongoing basis. By the intervention and good faith of Global Relief and Deseret International USA, we recently received the largest donation of over $15 million of multipurpose antibiotics ever given to any organization except to multinational organizations. The purpose of the medicines is to provide relief to the flood affected patients from the four provinces of Pakistan.

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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