LAHORE | About 50 Pakistani Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh students gathered for two and half days of dialogue and activities as part of the 2013 Interfaith Harmony Camp in Lahore.
The November 29 to December 1 program equipped students with a deeper understanding of the different religions in Pakistan, and an appreciation for the diversity of beliefs and customs within their community. Of the 19 volunteers running the Interfaith Harmony Camp, 16 were Seeds.
Each day began with an Interfaith Assembly during which campers from each religion recited verses from their holy scriptures. Participants engaged in dialogue about their varying beliefs, religious violence and discrimination, and national identity. Several students noted their surprise at learning that other religions often emphasized similar beliefs and values. In a country marked with tension between different religious groups, they expressed a desire to live in a country with more religious tolerance.
Karishma, a Hindu participant, asked her group: “Why can’t we all live together the way we lived for the last three days?”
Campers who were attending the program for the second time participated in their own process, centered on developing effective leadership and management skills. Practical exercises throughout the seminar allowed them to develop their skills with the new participants.
Icebreakers, a talent show, and other fun activities contributed to an environment of cooperation, creativity, and friendship.
Over 150 members of the community attended the closing ceremony, including parents, teachers, Delegation Leaders, and others.
A camper noted that the next time he heard a joke about Sikhs, he’d think of his Sikh camper friend and refuse to share it.
“I will put my efforts into eradicating wrong conceptions about Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians,” said a Muslim participant. “And I will work to fill the hearts of Muslims with love for others.”
Besides transformations like this on the personal level, many students also left the seminar with concrete plans for sharing their experience with others in their communities. These ranged from independent research projects to deepen and share their knowledge, to starting school and campus groups focused on interreligious discussion, to pen pal projects promoting interaction via letter writing.
“I always pray to God to make me an instrument of peace,” said Jessica, a Christian participant. “What I have learnt at this camp I will promote it in my neighborhood, with family and friends, so that the message goes on. I wanted to bring a change in the world and now I am sure I can do it.”
The spirit of the seminar is perhaps best captured in the words of Sukhvinder, a Sikh participant, on the last day:
“I will spread the message of peace to my friends. I will not say bad things about other religions and will not believe in something that I have not seen myself. I will work for humanity, and will learn more about the religions of others.”
2013 INTERFAITH HARMONY CAMP