Religion has a unique power to inspire individuals and communities to work for peace—it can reach the roots of motivation and elicit heroic acts of love and service to humanity.
This was the central message of the Baha’i representative at the recent International Seerat Conference held in Pakistan on 2 December 2017. More than 1,000 people, including representatives of the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Baha’i faiths attended the event organized by the Pakistan Government’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
Representing the Baha’i International Community, Suzan Karaman spoke about the timeliness of bringing together people of diverse religious beliefs: “These kinds of spaces open new possibilities. Here, not only can we discuss the importance of dialogue, unity, and love for humanity, we can also show it in action,” said Ms. Karaman at a special evening gathering on interreligious harmony.
“It is important that we learn to draw on the constructive powers of religion to channel human endeavors toward peace,” she continued, as she addressed diverse religious leaders in the session. “The Baha’i International Community and the Baha’i community of Pakistan stand ready to work for peace in Pakistan and the world.”
Many representatives at the evening session recognized the challenges posed by intolerance and prejudice and discussed the importance of promoting a culture of mutual respect.
“There was a general acknowledgement that all religions emphasize the need to see each other first and foremost as human beings,” said Ms. Karaman, after the event. “This is essential if we are to work for unity and ultimately peace.”
O Lord! Make us useful in this world; free us from the condition of self and desire. O Lord! Make us brethren in Thy love, and cause us to be loving toward all Thy children. Confirm us in service to the world of humanity so that we may become the servants of Thy servants, that we may love all Thy creatures and become compassionate to all Thy people. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 301.
In her comments in the evening program, she acknowledged the efforts of many faith communities to contribute to societal harmony and emphasized the concept of love, which lies at the heart of every faith:
… love and good faith must so dominate the human heart that men will regard the stranger as a familiar friend, the malefactor as one of their own, the alien even as a loved one, the enemy as a companion dear and close. Who killeth them, him will they call a bestower of life; who turneth away from them, him will they regard as turning towards them; who denieth their message, him will they consider as one acknowledging its truth. The meaning is that they must treat all humankind even as they treat their sympathizers, their fellow-believers, their loved ones and familiar friends.
Should such a torch light up the world community, ye will find that the whole earth is sending forth a fragrance, that it hath become a delightsome paradise, and the face of it the image of high heaven. Then will the whole world be one native land, its diverse peoples one single kind, the nations of both east and west one household. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 84.
“The violence being perpetrated in the world in the name of religion has nothing to do with true religion,” Ms. Karaman said.
The conference took place on the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. The President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, gave the keynote address.