The Third Loyola Hall Symposium was held in the Jesuit Center, Lahore on March 2-4. The Loyola Hall Symposia Series is an annual event which brings together Muslim and Christian scholars to share and reflect on different topics in a spirit of openness to learn from ‘the other’ and to be a catalyst for greater inter religious harmony in Pakistan. The Series is in honor of the over 25 years of pioneering Christian-Muslim dialogue work of Robert Butler SJ, one of the founders of Loyola Hall in 1962.
The theme chosen for the third symposium was Search for Holiness: Exploring the Meaning and Significance of Sacred Space for Muslims and Christians which attracted a wide and varied range of topics from a equally varied group of participants from Lahore, Karachi, Mirpurkhas, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Khushpur.
The topics included:
- three paper on Sufi shrines;
- the Holy Kaaba;
- a mystical view of the house of God;
- a research on Sahowala, the place of the beginning of the Catholic church in Pakistan in the 1880’s;
- the sanctity of Islamic art and architecture;
- religion of the other as a holy place;
- a research of the victims of the Peshawar church bombing of 2013 and their journey to healing and forgiveness;
- sacred places in the Qur’an;
- the history of the Catholic Catechist Training Center in Khushpur;
- a historical view of respecting sacred places in pre- and post- British times.
The discussions produced lively participation and there was a deep sense of learning from each other and the other’s experience. The participants remarked that it was a safe environment in which to share and as such they were able to go more deeply into the issues under discussion. This is important because the atmosphere in Pakistan now is one of fear and suspicion because of increasing violence, the aim of which is often to create sectarian and interreligious tension.
The Symposium has planted seeds of hope, harmony and cooperation which we pray will produce much fruit across this land.