Global leaders gather in Pakistan for interfaith summit

ISLAMABAD  -  The International Religious Freedom and Interfaith Harmony Summit 2024 convened on Thursday, drawing together a diverse array of global leaders, religious figures, government officials, and civil society representatives at a local hotel here.

Organized by the Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) and All Neighbors USA, the summit aimed to catalyze dialogue, collaboration, and mutual understanding among varied religious and cultural communities within Pakistan and beyond. Highlighting religious freedom and interfaith harmony as fundamental pillars of peace, development, and social cohesion, the summit provided a crucial platform amidst increasing challenges to religious freedom and growing extremism and intolerance worldwide.

Esteemed speakers and experts from diverse backgrounds, including government officials, religious leaders, and representatives of international organizations, graced the summit. Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director of SSDO, underscored the significance of interfaith harmony and the role of religious communities in Pakistan, stressing the need to align state policies with the vision articulated in the August 11th address by Quaid-e-Azam. Mr. Ilyas Masih, President of All Neighbors USA, emphasized 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, U.S. Embassy Islamabad, congratulated SSDO and All Neighbors USA for convening such a diverse group of experts, theologians, and men and women of faith to reflect on how everyone can contribute to a more peaceful, more tolerant, and more just society for all Pakistanis.  The U.S. delegation, represented by Dr. Jack Haye (President, Henry College) and Dr. Joseph Knight (President, 4ethne Organization), and Ilyas Masih (President-All Neighbors USA) shared insights and best practices from their experiences in the USA to further advance peace, harmony, and social cohesion in Pakistan. Ayesha Raza Farooq (Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of Child) shared insights into minority children’s rights.

A panel discussion featuring Mr. Iqbal Ahmed Detho (Chairman Sindh Human Rights Commission), Sukhdev Assardas Hemani (Member Sindh Human Rights Commission, Govt of Sindh), Ms. Afshan Tehseen (Former Chairperson NCRC), and Mr. Muhammad Shahid Khan (Director-SSDO), and Dr. Ehsan Sadiq (Director-General, National Police Bureau) delved into practical solutions for fostering peace, interfaith harmony, and meaningful dialogue and collaboration among all religious and faith communities in Pakistan. The summit welcomed participants from across the United States and Pakistan, including clergy members, Pandits, Muslims, Sikhs, and Baha’i community scholars, all sharing a commitment to advancing religious freedom, promoting interfaith understanding, and bridging divides across cultures and beliefs.

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