While US-Pakistan relations have been tumultuous since the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s birth as a country in 1947, our two nations have witnessed an increase in religious intolerance in the past decade. Islamophobia in the United States of America and discrimination against Christians and other minorities in Pakistan have grown, often with violent consequences.
Launched in 2011, the US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium (UPIC), a key initiative of Intersections International’s Global Peacemaking Program, is a nonpartisan interreligious alliance consisting of religious, academic and community leaders from over fifty Pakistani and American civil society organizations. The value of UPIC lies in the recognition that faith cannot be excluded from the sensibilities of the overwhelming majority of US and Pakistani populations; thus promoting a model of education that facilitates respect and understanding among civil society.
UPIC was initially developed in partnership with the US-Pakistan Leaders Forum, an ongoing project of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a partner NGO of Intersections International. In 2012, Intersections expanded its partnership to include the Iqbal International Institute for Research and Dialogue (IRD) at the International Islamic University in Islamabad (IIU), as well as with the Lahore Institute of Management Sciences (LUMS). These and other institutions have been instrumental in connecting UPIC with religious, academic and community leaders in Pakistan and have graciously hosted UPIC’s annual strategic planning sessions and other events.
2017 UPIC Trip to Pakistan
Intersections’ seventh UPIC trip to Pakistan occurred in April 2017, growing from a hand full of people to 30 delegates from 12 countries. It was an opportunity to reflect on what UPIC has achieved since 2011. Having stressed interpersonal connections as a tool for creating a bridge between seemingly divided communities, Intersections carried out this mission by nurturing new and old relationships. University of Management and Technology’s co-hosting of UPIC this year highlights the recognition that over 65% of Pakistanis are under the age of 30, making collaborations with universities and youth based centers a crucial link to this next generation.
In terms of honoring established relationships, an unparalleled moment in Pakistani history occurred when three different religious leaders- an imam, priest and rabbi- prayed over Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad’s grave. They recognized his legacy as an early contributor to UPIC and dedication to working for interfaith harmony. By sharing personal stories and religious experiences, UPIC 2017 opened eyes to ease tensions and deal with perceptions and misperceptions in all its complexities.