The Fourth Loyola Hall Symposium, Lahore

The Fourth Loyola Hall Symposium, Lahore

Columban Father Liam O'Callaghan, Pakistan

LHR 17-02 4th LH Symp (1)

The Fourth Loyola Hall Symposium took place on 13-14 February 2017 in Loyola Hall, the Jesuit retreat and educational center in Lahore.  This year’s theme was Thinking Justice and Social Responsibility from Christian and Islamic Perspectives.

The Loyola Hall Symposium series began in 2013 and its aim is to create a space for reflection and discussion among Christian and Muslim scholars on a whole range of different themes: religious, historical, social, mutual cooperation etc. The theme of the first symposium was Mysticism East and West: The Concept of the Unity of Being. This was followed by The Sacredness of Creation: Spiritual Responsibility of Muslims and Christians to Care for our Common Home- Planet Earth; and the theme of the third symposium was Search for Holiness: Exploring the Meaning and Significance of Sacred Space for Muslims and Christians.

LHR 17-02 4th LH Symp (2)The format of this symposium was the presentation of seven papers by widely respected scholars – four Muslim and three Christian – over two days and broken into three “blocks”:

  1. Classical and/or current theological developments,
  2. Scriptural considerations,
  3. Theological and social challenges of the Pakistani context from the perspective of justice and social responsibility.

After the papers of each block were presented, the 24 symposium participants were divided into small groups for discussion and sharing on the papers and then a further round of sharing in the plenary. The result was some profound sharing and new insights, a real cross fertilization of ideas and traditions among participants, some of whom were meeting for the first time.

Since 2013 a large number of participants have experienced the methodology and practical benefits of sharing and learning together as Christians and Muslims. These scholars have quite an influence in the institutions and areas of involvement where they are engaged and the potential for this message of acceptance, harmony and cooperation for the common good to reach countless others through them is significant. We hope this effort can continue for many years to come.

LHR 17-02 4th LH Symp (3)
The Urdu word in the centre of the sun is “Insaf”, meaning “Justice”

Just 10 minutes after the conclusion of the work of the first day of the symposium, a loud thud was heard by some of the participants. It turned out to be the noise of a suicide bomb exploding outside the nearby Punjab Assembly building, killing 13 people (including six policemen) and injuring many more, an atrocity claimed by a fringe group of The Pakistan Taliban (TTP).  The city was once again numbed in grief and shock. The work which the symposium is trying to promote is more needed than ever in the face of such evil, disregard for life, intolerance and misuse of religion. Many good people are working for this good despite the dangers and fear which they face.