Eight students and and two faculty members from Edwardes College attended the one-day seminar, “Interfaith Dialogue: A Grave Need of the Time in Pakistan,” organized on Tuesday, 25 October 2011, by the Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi. The purpose of the seminar was to help nurture awareness among people in Pakistan about religious harmony, peace and the need for dialogue.
The seminar was attended by about 80 people, who included Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, and the Edwardes delegation represented a similar diversity. Edwardes College was one of several institutions of higher education invited to participate in the seminar, another being the International Islamic University in Islamabad. The Edwardians were enthusiastic about meeting new people from various backgrounds and participated enthusiastically in the discussions.
The first speaker of the session Khursheed Nadeem, who emphasized these points:
• Diversity beautifies even in the case of religions, for it adds beauty and color to our lives.
• We should respect and appreciate the differences among people.
• Peace is a mandate that must be propagated by all people concerned about the health of society.
The second speaker who spoke was Dr. Aslam Khaki, a graduate of International Islamic University, a former Fulbright Scholar, and a jurist consultant to the Federal Shariah Court who has extensive experience in interfaith dialogue. He emphazied the following:
• Our psyche is the culprit, not the religion, in situations of inter-religious conflict.
• When you study history you are actually studying the historians and their views of history
• Fundamentalism exists everywhere and is found in practically all religions.
• The purpose of interfaith dialogue should not be to bring the faiths into harmony but the followers of the faiths into harmony.
The Edwardian students felt very positively about the seminar because they experienced it as thought-provoking and enlightening. The group traveled by College transport to Rawalpindi on Monday so that they could get to know the rest of the group at dinner Monday evening and so that they would be rested for the Tuesday session. Accommodation was provided at the centre, which also paid all expenses for participants.
Organizing for the seminar was directed by Vice Principal Kalim Ullah, at the request of Principal Titus Presler, who had been contacted by the study centre in Rawalpindi. The two faculty members who accompanied the coeducational student delegation were Salman Ahmad, Lecturer in Professional Studies, and Julia Pervaiz, Lecture in Psychology. The Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi offers a number of inter-religious programmes on an ongoing basis.
"This was a very significant event for Edwardes," said Dr. Presler. "We expect that this seminary will help catalyze other similar events at the College in which many students and community members can participate."