UN chief visits Kartarpur Corridor, terms it 'symbol of peace'

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) pays his respects during a visit to the Sikh Shrine of Baba Guru Nanak Dev at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Pakistani town of Kartarpur, near the Indian border on Feb. 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

UN chief visits Kartarpur Corridor, terms it 'symbol of peace'

  • Guterres says the visit pays tribute to the contribution of Sikh community all over the world
  • He arrived in Pakistan to attend a UN summit on Afghan refugees

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday visited Pakistan’s flagship interfaith initiative, the Kartarpur Corridor, and paid homage to Guru Nanak who founded Sikhism five centuries ago.
“This is the best symbol that we can give for a world in peace and for a world (where) there is mutual respect and acceptance of what is different,” the UN Chief said while addressing a pool of journalists and officials.
Opened last year, the four-kilometer Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh shrine of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India’s Punjab region to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. It allows Sikhs to visit the shrine in Pakistan without a visa. Some 5,000 Indian Sikhs have been allowed access daily.
“Recognizing the diversity is a blessing, is a richness not a threat which we see in so many parts of the world fighting in the name of religion. It is necessary to say that religions unite us for peace and the best symbol is this shrine,” Guterres said, adding that his visit was “to pay tribute to the contribution of the Sikh community all over the world for our planet.”
Guterres was given a tour of the gurdwara complex by a team of government officials led by Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri.
The UN Chief arrived in Islamabad on Sunday as part of his four-day visit to the country to attend an international conference on Afghan refugees, held to mark four decades since Pakistan started hosting displaced persons escaping conflict plaguing neighboring Afghanistan.


Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

Updated 31 March 2020

Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

  • Jamaat-e-Islami volunteers provide food and other necessities to Muslims and non-Muslims in need alike, party chief says
  • Religious minority leaders say the step will help promote interfaith harmony in the country

LAHORE: Promoting interfaith harmony during coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s religio-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has set out on a disinfection campaign for mosques, churches, and temples alike in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The initiative taken by the party’s social welfare wing, Al Khidmat Foundation, has been greatly lauded the country’s minority communities.
“Al Khidmat Foundation has been instructed by the party leadership to provide food to the needy in these testing times and participate in the movement of disinfecting worship places belonging to all religions along with other public areas,” JI’s information secretary, Qaisar Sharif, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“In Karachi and Peshawar, Al Khidmat volunteers have helped seven churches, five temples and two [Sikh] gurdwaras,” he added.
Sharif said the party’s top leadership opined that no one was safe since COVID-19 had engulfed the entire world.
“The JI has directed its volunteers to provide cooked food, rations and other items of necessity to those in need. The service is for the people of all faiths, not just Muslims. We believe in one God who is the Master of the universe. Our Prophet was a mercy to the humankind, not just to Muslims alone. As his followers, it is our responsibility to serve all humans without making any discrimination,” Sirajul Haq, the JI chief, told Arab News.
“Serving the mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras is a practical step toward religious harmony,” he continued. “We are trying to show the world that Islam is not a religion of extremism but teaches its followers that all humans are equal.”
The religious leaders of different faiths welcomed the step, saying it would lead to a more pluralistic society.
“It is a positive development that will pave the way for religious harmony in Pakistan,” Pastor Shahid Meraj, Dean of Lahore Cathedral, told Arab News. “There is always an initiative to begin, and this act will help start dialogue among religions.”
“We are thankful to the JI leadership for this gesture,” he added. “They helped us today and we have assured to help them whenever needed.”
Leaders of the Hindu community also appreciated the gesture, saying it would bring people of different religions closer together.
“At a time when the whole world is suffering due to an unseen virus, this act of disinfecting our temples is a good omen,” Pandat Bhagat Lal Khokhar, custodian of Lahore’s Valmik Mandar, told Arab News. “It will have a far reaching and positive impact on our society since it will bring Hindus and Muslims closer together.”
President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh echoed the same sentiment as well.
“This positive gesture will further strengthen the Sikh-Muslim brotherhood,” he noted. “It is important to have interfaith harmony in the country and such steps are extremely fruitful for that purpose.”
Rights activists also appreciated the JI initiative.
“Huge respect for Al-Khidmat, welfare wing of @JIPOfficial, for doing disinfectant spray in Mandir and Church. Lead by example of peaceful coexistence, interfaith harmony and pluralism,” Kapil Dev, a Hindu activist from Sindh, said in a Twitter post.