A PIONEERING peace mission aimed at healing religious rifts has triggered a major fresh water project in Pakistan.
The interfaith scheme was launched in Batley at the end of of a visit by Pakistani lawyers, police, imams and priests to the UK last week.
The delegation was in Britain in a bid to heal rifts between Muslims and Christians.
The fresh water work will be undertaken in Gojra – a town torn apart by religious tensions and where nine Christians were burned to death by Muslims in 2009.
The New Horizons mission was the brainchild of Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Rev Tony Robinson, and Yaqub Masih, lay canon at Wakefield Cathedral.
Wakefield church leaders secured the visit and won Foreign Office funding to bring it about.
Bishop Robinson said: “If the relationships we established are used to provide fresh water in Gojra, it would be a great witness to everyone and an incredible opportunity to show what we can do when we are all determined to work together for the good of our communities.”
Kirklees was at the heart of the mission, with stops including the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Dewsbury Minster and the Al Hikma Centre in Batley.
These followed meetings and receptions in London and York with stops at various faith centres. The group also found out about how crimes are investigated in the UK.
In Batley, all the visitors spoke of how the incident in Gojra had given the town a bad name all over the world and sparked calls for people to work together to improve interfaith relations.
Starting the water project on behalf of imams in Dewsbury and Batley, Molana Farouk Yunus said: “It is not love thy Muslim neighbour, not love thy Christian neighbour. But love thy neighbour. That is what the prophets taught us.
“What better project could we have than to bring fresh water to all. A simple project that will teach us to do good things together.”
Gojra imam Abdul Hayee said: “What we have seen here is interfaith harmony.
“It is an opportunity to show what we can do together when we are determined to work together for the good of our communities.”
The peace mission was supported by the police and Kirklees Faiths Forum, where spokesman Fakhara Rehman said: “We have started a journey of understanding between groups of people from different faiths.
“It is vital this work continues in order to reduce fear, between and within faith communities.
“It has been a thought-provoking week in which we have shared good practices and concerns and hopes for the future of our communities here and in Pakistan.
“We have committed not just to talk to each other but to take action together.”
She said the Christian and Muslim communities in Kirklees would be supporting the fresh water project.