I belong to the north-western part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. For the first time in the history of the province an amazing event occurred in July.
An interfaith youth camp took place which was arranged by the Diocese of Peshawar. The young people belonging to four different communities of the province, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims came under one roof for five days.
There were six females and six males from each religious community. The aim of the camp was to remind ourselves that, although we all belong to different religious communities, we are part of one Pakistani nation and we must promote peaceful co-existence and work together for the prosperity of our country.
The first day of the camp was full of edginess; everyone was reserved and full of doubts. For most of them it was the first time they had had an opportunity to meet and interact outside their religious communities. But almost by the next day, all of them become more like a family than friends.
During the camp, they learned to work together, find solutions to different issues faced and be a source of encouragement for each other. I think the best part about camp for me was when all the young people would sit at table for lunch and dinner and break bread together. It was a life-changing experience for us all.
Every day a festival was celebrated in the evening: Diwali (a Sikh festival), Eid (a Muslim festival), Holi (a Hindu festival) and then Christmas. And on the last day we celebrated Pakistan day! Truly I saw before me this beautiful phenomenon of strangers from different faiths coming together with friendships being established that would last a lifetime! The best comment of the camp for me was “how it appears to be a religious minority in the majority community”, this was a comment by a Muslim participant. He said here we 12 Muslims are minority.
The Diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan, has taken this approach to involve the young people from the different beliefs -- in other words, our future leaders -- to work together for a more tolerant society. When the young people from the different religious communities start respecting each other, they start standing up for the rights of one another. This will strengthen their identity; they will recognize their important position in the society. They will pave the road for peaceful coexistence.
Khushbakht Peters is an eye surgeon from the diocese of Peshawar in Pakistan.