October 23, 2012, 11:21 AM
Jinnah, known in Pakistan as Quaid-i-Azam, or “Great Leader,” lived in the northwest Pakistani city of Ziarat, where his home is a national monument. The city is also home to the shrines of Baba Kharwari and Nau Gaza Baba (the name “Ziarat” refers to an Islamic shrine).
To reach those sites, members of the Quetta-based CC had to travel for eighty miles near the borders of Afghanistan and Iran, and to pass through the Taliban strongholds of Kuchlak and Pishin.
“The area is notorious for drug smuggling, terrorism and kidnapping,” said Lion Irfan Ali, chair of the Roots CC. “Passing through the roads, one can see the slogans written on the walls in support of the Taliban.”
Just two weeks before the group’s visit, a Swiss couple traveling on a similar route through the nearby Loralai district of Baluchistan was kidnapped by the Taliban. The couple was released eight months later, according to al-Jazeera.
The July 2011 visit to Ziarat included 35 Christian, Hindu and Muslim participants from several interfaith groups and social action organizations. Upon arrival, the group visited the Jinnah residence and the shrine of Baba Kharwari.
The visit honored Quaid-i-Azam as “a secular leader, a model for our youths to portray the rational teaching of Islam and respect for others,” Mr. Irfan Ali said. It also celebrated the reverence for “peace and respect for other faiths found in the teachings of Kharwari Baba, and how his shrine, as a symbol of composite heritage, pulls people like a magnet across the country, uniting them under one roof regardless of caste, creed or gender.”
Following the visit to the shrine, the participants moved to an open hillside, where they shared presentations on the work of their respective organizations (pictured above) and performed the “Attan,” a traditional Pashto dance.
In bringing together members of many belief systems in the name of peace, the visit reflected the core principles and values of URI, Mr. Irfan Ali said.
“This is the beauty of today’s visit: binding followers of different faiths with the thread of love, respect and harmony,” Mr. Irfan Ali said, adding that at the sacred shrines, “no one can distinguish who is Christian, Hindu, Sunni or Shia.”
Members of the Root CC were accompanied on their July 2011 visit to Ziarat by members of the Christian Study Centre of Pakistan, Caritas Quetta, MASS, Youth Advocate Program International, PCCFIH and Help Zone.