This posting describes the effort of a courageous and dedicated group of Pakistani Muslims who, inspired by the legacy of Daniel Pearl, have established an Interfaith Forum in Faisalabad, Pakistan, aimed at exploring the commonalities of the two faiths so as to educate a modern, tolerant, moderate and open-minded next generation of Pakistani youngsters promoting respect and tolerance for other faiths.
In the past five years, the Forum has consistently commemorated the anniversary of Danny’s murder in candle-lighting ceremonies, lectures about Muslim-Jewish commonalities, and discussions about pluralistic societies. They have also participated in the Daniel Pearl World Music Days, through music, song and magic.
As part of this effort, the Forum has compiled an Urdu/English magazine supplement, entitled “A miraculous story of dynamic person, fond of talking to strangers,” and distributed it to 20,000 schools and libraries in Pakistan. The magazine contains articles by prominent Pakistani personalities, former colleagues of Danny, and past recipients of the “Daniel Pearl Fellowship in Journalism.” View the magazine
This effort has been pursued under extremely difficult conditions of suspicion and animosity from some of the town extremists. The group had difficulties renting a meeting place and were subjected to repeated telephone threats and intimidations. In 2007, their office was raided and ransacked while office workers were tied and threatened by “two bearded men” demanding to know the whereabouts of the head organizers.
This year, the Faisalabad group formed the “World Tolerance Organization” and their first activity was to start a series of lectures, geared to high school students, on the subject of religious tolerance. Including:
1. High school Lecture on “Who was Daniel Pearl”
2. Inauguration of the World Tolerance Organization
3. Celebration of the Daniel Pearl World Music Days
In preparation for the official inauguration of their Center, they asked the Daniel Pearl Foundation to send them books on Judaism — such books are practically non-existent in Pakistan.
The Center for Musim-Jewish Engagement and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California responded enthusiastically to help fulfill this request and generously donated over 100 books on Jews and Judaism which were shipped on December 2008 to Faisalabad. These books will constitute the first “Jewish bookshelf” in the newly formed interfaith library at the Center, which might very well be the one and only “Jewish bookshelf” in Pakistan today.
Notably included in the shipment were four inscribed copies of the book I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl co-edited by Judea and Ruth Pearl, and four inscribed copies of The Children of Abraham: An introduction to Judaism for Muslims by Professor Reuven Firestone. These two books would serve as a gentle introduction to interfaith studies at the center.
The official inauguration of the Center is scheduled for February 21, the anniversary of Daniel’s death, and will take place in the presence of the U.S. consul general in Lahore, Pakistan. The words “IN MEMORY OF DANIEL PEARL” will be written on the sign board installed outside the main gate of the Center.
Khawer Javed Shafiq, President of World Tolerance Organization was abducted on April 7, 2009.
Khawer wrote to us on January 27, 2009:
“Due to the Middle East crisis, anti-Jewish sentiments run high in Pakistan. However, you may publisize [the inaguration of our Center] to the press and post it on your website. We are ready to face any eventuality come what may. We will not let the terrorists succeed in their designs. Our seven years efforts on Daniel’s project have emboldened us to bear any consequences.
Pray and stay with us.”
Kudos to our brave Pakistani friends — comrades in decency, and a ray of hope deserving our admiration and support.