[Editor’s note: On Easter Sunday, bombs ripped through a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, known to be frequented by Christians. The attack killed 75 and left more than 300 injured. A Taliban group claimed responsibility and said the intended victims were Christians, although many of those killed were actually Muslims.

 At an inter-faith press conference following the attack, Dominican Father James Channan, who runs a Peace Center in Lahore, noted that many of the deadliest assaults on Christians in Pakistan come on Sundays, when they’re gathered for worship services, and demanded that the government pay financial compensation to the victims.

 In this piece written for Crux, Channan describes a new inter-faith effort to counteract Pakistan’s growing climate of religious extremism.]

Pakistan is a country in grave need of interfaith harmony and Christian-Muslim dialogue.

In this nation, very often we are confronted with ethnic, sectarian and religious violence. Attacks on innocent citizens when they’re travelling on a bus, children studying in a school, or families having some relaxing time in the public parks, are all too frequent.

There was a recent attack on a park called Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Lahore on March 27, Easter Day, which resulted in the deaths of 76 innocent children, women and men, and over 300 people were injured. It left us in deep shock and disbelief that such a barbaric act of terrorism could take place.

It left every person with a human heart mourning.

These kind of tragic incidents leave us with many questions, such as why some people have this kind of radical mentality. Why they do not respect their own lives and the lives of others? Why do they have no compassion, no love or mercy for the children, women and others?

There is certainly something wrong somewhere. Lack of tolerance in general, and such violent acts of terrorism in particular, need immediate attention.

There is a grave need to promote a sense of respect for all, the acceptance of all human beings, and to make our land one of peaceful co-existence. Such positive acts will also make a difference for the world around us.

To play our role as Christians, we keep on promoting a sense of respect for all, especially respect for the religious freedom of all, and the expression of religious rites. The Dominicans in Pakistan have established a Peace Center in Lahore to foster harmony and peace among people of all religions, especially between Christians and Muslims.

We keep on organizing seminars, conferences and workshops throughout the year, striving to bring about healing, reconciliation, justice, and a sense of equality and respect among all.

For this purpose we’ve organized an interfaith conference for May 15, under the theme of “Symphony of Peace Prayers”.

We’ve invited over 100 Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh, religious leaders, scholars, human rights activities, social workers, college and university professors and students. There will be peace songs, messages, and artistic images.

There will also be speeches on the imperative facing all men and women of good will to use their positive energies, and the divine spark which is present in each of them, to make our world harmonious and to make our planet earth a peaceful place for all living beings.

This conference is being organized by the Peace Center and the United Religions Initiative in Pakistan. Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, the Grand Imam of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, and myself as the director of the Peace Center and also URI Regional Coordinator in Pakistan, are the main organizers of this mega-event.

Please pray for our success, and pray that Pakistan may never again know the horrors we witnessed on Easter Day.

Father James Channan is a Catholic priest and Director of the Peace Center of the Dominican Order in Pakistan. He served as a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue under Pope John Paul II from 1985 until 1995, and as a consultor to the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims from 1999 to 2004. He also served for 17 years as Executive Secretary of the Pakistani Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Christian-Muslim Dialogue.