Religious leaders highlighted challenges to interfaith harmony yesterday on the 25th anniversary of the world day of prayer for peace. The Catholic Church also hosted events nationwide in Pakistan yesterday. The National Council for Interfaith Dialogue organized a gathering for more than 200 at the peace hall of St Joseph Catholic Church in Lahore. About 20 priests and clerics as well as a few Sikh leaders attended the prayers. Speakers read out texts from their holy books, offered collective prayers for peace and lit candles. Some clerics also pointed out similarities between the prayer of Pope John Paul II and Islamic verses. Priests later handed over prayer cards to clerics. The rector of Capuchin house in Lahore said wrong interpretations of religion by clerics are the main reason behind the current strife in the country. “Certain people use this to their advantage. Ethnic discrimination, human rights violations and blatant use of weapons are other factors,” Father Henry Paul said. Maulana Javed Akbar Saqi, chairman of the Wahdat Islami Movement, an Islamic charity organization, also condemned what he called two-faced clerics. “People use Church venues to speak of peace and interfaith harmony but speak otherwise at religious gatherings. I condemn major attacks on Christian settlements in recent years; religious places of worship are still vulnerable,” he said. Similarly, a Sikh leader urged political leaders to think above their own religion or families. The country was not meant for one religion only, he said. Everyone later condemned an attack on members of a peace committee in Northern Province last week and groups who defame clerics trying to promote a moderate interpretation of Islam. “Pakistani organizers of a recent Muslim peace conference in London were labeled as infidels in a local [Lahore] periodical. Such publishers are the real terrorists,” Maulana Saqi said.
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