Mr. Ijaz-ul-Haq, recalling the sad incident at Shantinagar, said that this had been the work of a few uneducated and uncivilized people, and did not reflect the feelings of the Muslim community at large towards their Christian brethren. He said that Pakistan’s image had been badly marred in the international community by this incident and apologized on behalf of his fellow Muslims for what had happened.
He said that Muslims understand Christians as both they and the Bible are mentioned in the Koran. He encouraged the Christians to learn more about Islam in order to understand it, and encouraged both communities to live together in peace and harmony. Referring to POPLAC he expressed the hope that this Christian Center would serve as a community center where Christians and Muslims could meet together and learn and grow together. He assured the foreign missionaries present, on behalf of the government and the Prime Minister, that they were welcome to this country to carry out their mission work, without being afraid or without any reservation and to remember that they had their support. He also expressed the hope that there would be more community centers like POPLAC. Mr. Ijaz-ul-Haq also announced that the Zia-ul-Haq (Shaheed) Foundation would make a cash award each year to each student in Shantinagar who secured first position in the final examinations.
Dr. Anne van der Bijl referred to the statement made by the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Literacy Commission on International Literacy Day “We do not fully realize the relationship between economic prosperity and the development of our human resources.” Stressing the need for development of human resources he said “The Prince of Peace Center is the place where this can happen – it can happen in peace and for peace because violence always destroys those precious human resources and it destroys the environment of peace and stability that is needed for this development.” He said that this was the day of education and we have to take the chance when we have it, so that we can have a tomorrow. There were books in the library and more books would come because of a vision for tomorrow. Tomorrow we want a world that is free of want, violence and injustice, where children could have a wonderful life. Righteousness and peace, he said, could be taught as a result of learning it. Peace is deeply desired by individuals and nations. Two years ago a need was felt for a Center where forgiveness could be taught; forgiveness between individuals and forgiveness on a corporate community level. Much killing had been done in the name of religion, and there was a need to forgive each other; forgiving those who had not asked for our forgiveness even as Christ forgave those who crucified Him. Forgiveness was pre-requisite for entering Paradise and he encouraged those present to seek forgiveness in Christ. Dr. Anne van der Bijl then announced a personal gift of a computer to the Library and expressed the hope that more computers would be donated for the Library.
Dr. Justice Nasim Hasan Shah reiterated the sentiments expressed by Dr. Anne van der Bijl, which he said had been a message of love and forgiveness and not of revenge. He recalled his previous visit and the sadness and sorrow he had encountered then and the need that had been felt for rehabilitation and reconciliation and to do something to stop the hostility.
He said that Muslims were friends of Christians and they should both live together in peace and harmony. Such incidents were against the teachings of Islam. He said the Library had been built to provide the means to eradicate ignorance. The books would bring enlightenment. The dream had become a reality. He encouraged the people of Shantinagar to make the most of the opportunity provided by the Library and Center – to learn to read, to write and develop and dwell together peacefully. He expressed the hope that POPLAC would become a model for the whole country.