World Leaders Convene in Pakistan for Inspiring Interfaith Summit

The International Religious Freedom and Interfaith Harmony Summit 2024 brought together a diverse group of global leaders, religious figures, government officials, and civil society representatives in Pakistan on Thursday. The summit, organized by the Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) and All Neighbors USA, aimed to foster dialogue, collaboration, and mutual understanding among various religious and cultural communities within Pakistan and beyond.

The summit highlighted religious freedom and interfaith harmony as fundamental pillars for achieving peace, development, and social cohesion. This gathering took on increased significance amid rising challenges to religious freedom and the growing threat of extremism and intolerance worldwide.

The event featured esteemed speakers and experts from a range of backgrounds, including government officials, religious leaders, and representatives of international organizations. Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director of SSDO, emphasized the importance of interfaith harmony and the role of religious communities in Pakistan, calling for state policies that align with the vision articulated in the August 11th address by Quaid-e-Azam. Mr. Ilyas Masih, President of All Neighbors USA, highlighted the significance of hosting the summit in Pakistan. Faisal Karim Kundi, former Deputy Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, stressed the imperative of nurturing dialogue to uphold the cherished values of social and religious diversity for national cohesion.

Addressing the audience, Kate Somvongsiri, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Islamabad, congratulated SSDO and All Neighbors USA for convening such a diverse group of experts, theologians, and people of faith. The U.S. delegation, including Dr. Jack Haye, President of Henry College, and Dr. Joseph Knight, President of 4ethne Organization, shared insights and best practices from their experiences in the USA, offering valuable perspectives on advancing peace, harmony, and social cohesion in Pakistan. Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, also shared her insights into minority children’s rights.

A panel discussion featuring prominent figures such as Mr. Iqbal Ahmed Detho, Chairman of the Sindh Human Rights Commission; Sukhdev Assardas Hemani, Member of the Sindh Human Rights Commission; Ms. Afshan Tehseen, Former Chairperson of NCRC; Mr. Muhammad Shahid Khan, Director of SSDO; and Dr. Ehsan Sadiq, Director-General of the National Police Bureau, delved into practical solutions for fostering peace and interfaith harmony. The discussion focused on meaningful dialogue and collaboration among all religious and faith communities in Pakistan, aiming to bridge divides and build understanding across cultural and belief systems.

The summit welcomed participants from across the United States and Pakistan, including clergy members, Pandits, Muslims, Sikhs, and Baha’i community scholars, all united by a shared commitment to advancing religious freedom and promoting interfaith understanding.

Acknowledgement: Published by The Nation on April 26, 2024

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