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In a polarized world, we need Sufi to bridge gap, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tells Sufi Conference

KARACHI, May 5: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that now as the world becomes increasingly polarized, today we need the Sufi, more than ever before. We need that universal language of the mystic to unite us. “To bridge the gap across religions, cultures and people. To remind us that at our very core, we are all one;  we are all the same,” the PPP Chairman stated while addressing 2-day International Sufi Conference organization by Sindh Culture Department at a local hotel here today.

Scholars on Sufism from twelve countries were invited to the Conference to share Sufi pearls with a carefully selected audience. Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, PPP Sindh President and Minister for Food Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Minister Culture Sardar Ali Shah and others also spoke on the occasion.  

 “Let me begin by welcoming our foreign scholars and other distinguished guests who have travelled to be a part of this conference. When scholars of your stature and your beliefs sit together, and deliberate, it brings me great hope for the future of humanity,” he said.

 He also congratulated our dynamic Chief Minister, the Minister for Culture and their team for putting together this spectacular event, which is much needed at this time.

 “Sufis have only ever spoken of change through the self. It is only when we conquer ourselves from within that we can hope to change that which surrounds us. I am awed whenever I attempt, in my own meager capacity to learn the ways of Sufism. Such immense power, the Sufi attributes to the Self. The majesty of the all encompassing Self. 

“Inter faith harmony, religious tolerance, inclusiveness; these are all terms that we hear today -That we, the progressive, like to bandy about, when we discuss the cure for what ails society today. But the Sufi thought encapsulated all these and more upon its inception many hundreds of years ago. 

 “Centuries ago, it was the Sufis that spread Islam across the Indus valley. Through love and harmony, luminaries like Data sahib, Rehman Baba, Bulleh Shah and their contemporaries strove tirelessly out of sheer devotion to the Deity. And their devotion inspired millions to embrace Islam.

“Today, sadly, extremism is worn like a badge of honour. Those that lie, do so with impunity, peddling fear. Their purpose is simple – to deceive enough people that they may establish a truth of their choosing. Meanwhile, the voice of absolute Truth, (and it pains me to say this), but the voice of absolute Truth, grows dimmer. And this, is when we first concede to the extremist. The first time we forcibly quell our inner Truth and confirm to an extremist mindset; the first time we pray out of fear and not out of love; the first time we decide that our one voice of reason is not enough to fight the many unreasonable ones – that’s when we decide to lay our weapons before the fight has even begun. For the Sufi too, has his weapons. The weapons ofTruth, of Love, of Acceptance. 

 “For the very first step towards healing, is acceptance. It is as Rumi said, “the wound is the place where the Light enters you,” our society stands deeply wounded today. And the wound continues to fester, unchecked and untreated. Most of us, too afraid to acknowledge the disease – too afraid to expose the malaise, and let the Light shine through it, allowing the healing to begin. 

 “Sindh is known as the land of the Sufis. From Lal Shahbaz Qalander to Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. From Sachal Sarmast to Shah Ina-yat. We are destined to stand up for the Truth and only the Truth. Is it any surprise then, that the Bhutto family hailed from this very land? When my mother, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, raised the flag of the Truth, there were few who were willing to lend their voices to hers, and fewer still, who chose to stand beside her. But she continued, undaunted – in the proud tradition of the Sufi, the torch-bearer of the Truth. Fighting the honest fight, the non-violent fight. But the most important fight – the fight against injustice. The fight for the triumph of Truth. 

 “When barbarians attacked the shrine of Lal Shahbaz, they shook us all to the core. The devotees that were martyred took a piece of us with them. We lost our bearings. Devastated. Disoriented. We were lost. It was then, that mere hours after suicide bombers blew themselves up at that beautiful, spiritual place, that one man decided he would not cower. He got up and he rang the shrine’s bell.And that bell, while it rang, served two purposes – first, it guided us out of the dark abyss into which we were spiraling, and second, it was the verydeath knell for every extremist that dared target pluralistic Pakistan.

 “Just like that bell ringer was the harbinger of doom for all extremists, we too must not be afraid to give voice to our beliefs. We need to have faith that our lone voice WILL make a difference. We need to find in ourselves, the courage to acknowledge that we are flawed, and the strength to accept that we need help. For if today we allow ourselves to fall silent, then tomorrow, I am afraid there may just be no one left to hear us. 

 Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged the audience to deliberate just how we veered so far from the path of the Sufi, and what’s the shortest and most effective way back. “Because I for one believe with all my heart that the salvation of mankind lies at the hands of the Sufi – for it is only he who has the courage to say “I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.” 

“So let’s all search within our hearts and let the journey begin,” the PPP Chairman concluded.