LAHORE: Anglican Archbishop of North America Reverend Foley Beach on Tuesday emphasised the importance of love and tolerance to overcome the challenges of extremism and discrimination that plague the world.

He was speaking at a reception hosted in his honour by National Council of Churches President Azad Marshall here. At the start of the event, moderator Pastor Emmanuel Khokhar welcomed the archbishop to Pakistan and hoped that his stay would be a pleasant one and full of love.

The event was attended by Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Badshahi Masjid Khateeb Dr Abdul Khabeer Azad, Jamia Naeemia patron Dr Ragheb Naeemi, Pir Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi Qadri, Maulana Asim Makhdoom and Bishop of Multan Leo Roderick Paul among others.

Addressing the gathering, Bishop Dr Azad called for peaceful coexistence of all religious and ethnic groups living in Pakistan. He said both Christianity and Islam preached peace and brotherhood and called for promoting tolerance in Pakistani society.

PUC chief Ashrafi highlighted the services of the council and other Islamic outfits for the minority communities of the country, saying he was always there whenever a need arose. He also rejected the impression of a divide between the minority and majority communities, saying everyone was an “equal citizen” under the constitution of Pakistan.

Clerics Khabeer and Naqshbandi said Pakistan was a diverse society and people belonging to all religions live in harmony.

Thanking the hosts, Archbishop Dr Beach said he was glad to see the Islamic scholars propagating the need for an interfaith dialogue.

In response to a question, he said the people in the United States have mixed views about Pakistan; however, hitherto he has found nothing but goodwill and love wherever he has gone during his two-day stay. He said every society has its fair share of problems, but every religion preaches love and tolerance. And to overcome the ills of extremism and fundamentalism, there was need to promote ideas of peace, love and tolerance.

Answering a reporter’s question, Bishop Dr Azad expressed his concern over the population census conducted in 2018 wherein the Hindu community has emerged as the largest minority group in the country.

“We have our reservations on the conduct of the census. You will find Christians living in Karachi till Peshawar whereas the Hindu community is primarily settled in Sindh. Christians’ contribution to Pakistani society is well documented and we expect the Pakistani state to own its Christian citizens just as it is embracing Sikhs and Hindus,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019