Universal Nexus for Interfaith Trust & Engagement

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The conditions regarding the protection of the rights of minorities are not ideal in Pakistan.
The violence continues unabated targeting non-Muslims and their assets in many cities across the country.
This despite the fact that under Islam, the rights of minorities in Muslim societies are fully protected to ensure their complete security and harmony; and the same can be deemed ideal for any society.
In order to ensure, safeguard and promote the rights of non-Muslims as enshrined in Islam.  UNITE would undertake and strive to improve & ensure an enabling environment for non-Muslims in society. UNITE shall operate under the aegis of this federal ministry to realize its plan under the able guidance of Janab Sardar Muhammad Yousaf.
The head of UNITE is the country's young, renowned religious leader Mufti Abu Huraira Mohiuddin, who is rendering ideal guidance by preaching patience and tolerance, religious harmony while educating youth about Islam's progressive ideas in the country.
Majlis Saut ul Islam Pakistan (MSIP) was established in 1991 to reach out to young ulema with a message of pluralism; shunning racial, religious, sectarian, ethnic and regional prejudice and leanings.

It embarked on this new path to ensure global peace when few foresaw the absolute necessity for sustaining a peaceful world.
Hold a two-day International Conference in Islamabad on Interfaith Harmony that would include leading scholars and representatives from over 20 countries.

w This would send out a strong message for peace and amity, raise issues of minorities and offer workable solutions from the scholars' own experience.
Inauguration ceremony of Universal Nexus for Interfaith Trust and Engagement (UNITE) organized by Federal Ministry of Interfaith Harmony on June 16, 2015. The ceremony was attended by Minister for Interfaith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousuf. UNITE Chairman Mufti Abu Huraira Mohiuddin said that it was because of the few so-called religious leaders that the image of clergy class has been portrayed negatively in the society. He said they have trained 600 religious scholars on peace, interfaith harmony and tolerance. Ms. Bashir said that there was shrinking space for people from different religions and urged for mutual respect to foster harmony. She demanded from the Federal Minister that we need those religious and political leaders who own us.
Why Interfaith Dialogue is Urgent

Interfaith work has recently acquired a high profile but mainly for negative reasons. I want to outline what is being done to reduce ignorance and prejudice, but I want to concentrate on the more positive aspects of interfaith work: shared action for a better world, theological discussion, and spiritual exploration. Even politicians, who a generation ago did not ‘do God’ now recognize the importance of interfaith work. 

For many people, religion is bad news. It is blamed for creating barriers and a cause of division within societies and between nations. In 2003, for example, the British Government set up a Faith Communities Unit, and I…heard the former head of the Muslim Council of Great Britain praising what has been done in Britain to promote social cohesion. … (Also) several Muslim countries have arranged major conferences to bring together imams, clergy, and rabbis. Recently at a meeting in Geneva, convened by the King of Saudi Arabia, though some Muslim speakers dwelt on the ‘clash of civilizations' and their fear that the West wanted to impose its civilization on all other countries, the majority of Muslim speakers rejected this and called for a dialogue of civilizations.

Does religion need to be a cause of division?
Religion can be a cause of division because it is a significant part of a person's identity -- it may determine what you wear, what you cannot eat, who you marry. Moreover, religion binds people together, but at the same time separates them from others. It's not politically correct to ask a Muslim to join you for a drink at the pub or to serve a bacon-and-eggs breakfast to someone who is Jewish.

A Christian friend told me how her daughter was very ill. At the weekend a colleague at work, who was a Hindu, rang her up to inquire after her child. "I have been praying for her," the colleague added. This, my friend told me, made her start questioning. "Who was the Hindu praying to?" "Was it another God or is there only One God whom Hindus and Christians address in different ways?" My friend had never thought about this before.

More than three hundred years ago, the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, insisted that
"There is not One God for Hindus and another for Muslims."
The great Sufi mystic Rumi also made clear that the Divine love transcends religious differences.
The religion of love is apart from all religions:
For lovers (the only) religion and creed is God.

Distinctions break down as you get to know members of other religions and become friends. A major task of interfaith organizations is to provide a safe place for this to happen. Too often members of different religions or cultural backgrounds may live in geographical proximity but there may be little human interaction beyond what is necessary….
Meeting people, eating meals together, inviting each other to our religious festivals, visiting other people's places of worship -- all this creates understanding and friendship. There is also the need for education and opposition to deliberate prejudice… (And focus on) Positive reasons for interfaith work.

First, the recognition of shared values allows us to act together for the common good.
The Golden Rule -- "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" -- is, in varying wording, to be found in every religion. At the 1993 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, such agreement was highlighted in the Declaration towards a Global Ethic, which calls for:

            1.  Non-violence and respect for life. 2.  A just economic order.
            3.  Tolerance and truthfulness.  4.  Equal rights and partnership between men and women.

It is not just a matter of words. People of faith are increasingly acting together to relieve human need. They are at the forefront of efforts to protect the environment…to reduce our carbon footprint, but that we need a new spirituality that emphasizes reverence for Nature and all life.

IF initiatives are now increasingly welcomed by the United Nations…and devoted a session of the General Assembly discussed the importance of interfaith dialogue. …And we are hoping that the UN will support calls for a decade of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

The most difficult area is working together for peace. At the height of conflict, religious leaders can do little except call for restraint. …Soon after the London bombings, the good relations between faith communities in this country helped to minimize the possibility of revenge attacks on Muslims. Muslim leaders made clear that terrorism had no basis in the Qur'an.

Cease-fires, however, only mark an end to conflict -- they do nothing to heal its long lasting wounds. The Mayan spiritual leader, Abraham Garcia, who was tortured in the civil war in Guatemala, said, "Peace isn't the simple silencing of the bullets…(it should be) an inner change toward other people, respect for the way they think and live." …As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, "There is no future without forgiveness." An example of this is the Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which he headed.

Secondly, interfaith dialogue can deepen one's understanding of the Divine.  To quote one of the popes, "We recognize and confess one sole God, although in different ways."  That pope was Gregory VII in the 11th-century writing to a Muslim prince. Are Allah and God and Brahma different names for the One Divine Reality? I was once asked what I prayed for when I prayed for the Dalai Lama. I think I said something like, "I pray that he will be supported in his work for peace and commitment to non-violence." 

I gratefully affirm that it is through Jesus Christ that I have come to know the generous love of God, but I hesitate to judge other people's claims to have experienced the grace of the Holy One. …For example, when I go into a mosque, with its empty simplicity, I am reminded of the transcendence and holiness of the Almighty, which sometimes gets forgotten in our rather ‘matey' family services.

But…mutual enrichment requires time and the willingness really to listen to the other. Instead of highlighting differences, you need to find out what the belief really means to a person and how it affects the way they live. 

For some years I was a member of a group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars convened by the former Bishop of Oxford.  It was moving to discover the deep reverence that some Muslims and some Jews have for Jesus. In the same way, some Christian theologians now recognize Muhammad as a Prophet -- on a par with Isaiah or Jeremiah -- but not as the final Prophet.

Again I have learned much from Jews, especially in the shadow of the Holocaust, in discussing the complex dimensions of forgiveness and the mystery of suffering -- "Why does God allow hideous acts of genocide….?" 

Thirdly, the deepest meeting point is as ‘in the cave of the heart' as we share our spiritual life.
Last year…at Black Friars in Oxford, where two monks explained their practice of contemplation or learning to be silent in God's presence, and in response the Dalai Lama talked about his practice as a Buddhist. Buddhists do not speak of a personal God, yet it became clear that in both traditions, the practice of contemplation frees us from self-centeredness and deepens our compassion for all living beings. 

A few years ago I shared with some Sikhs in a pilgrimage to their holy places, including the beautiful Golden Temple at Amritsar. Whenever we entered a Gurdwara, we were expected to bow our head to the ground in respect for the scriptures. It made me aware how casual I have often been in my treatment of the Bible, whereas one should (truly) treasure it….

Our spiritual life can be enriched by learning about and perhaps sharing in the devotions of others. Karen Armstrong has written that, "far from being a mere exercise in damage limitation, interfaith dialogue can become a spirituality that leads us directly into the divine presence."

Excerpts from an article by Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooks, a retired Anglican parish priest living near Oxford, England. He is involved in interfaith work for over forty years. He is the President of the World Congress of Faiths and is a co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum.