"A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric," replied Mawlana Hazar Imam in response to a question about globalization at Harvard University. The trend toward globalization has ushered us into an age of residing as a global village. To navigate through the challenges posed by increasingly globalized societies, it has become imperative to enhance and promote inter- and intra-religious harmony and develop mutual understanding and empathy based on an acknowledgement of religious diversity and differences.

As an appreciation of pluralism and diversity, the idea of "harmony without uniformity" has, therefore, to be promoted so that all can work together to meet their most basic responsibilities towards social progress. To achieve this, as Mawlana Hazar Imam has stated, “We must explore every opportunity to have different faiths come together in addressing the problems of our respective societies.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s discourse of pluralism and cosmopolitan ethics has placed the worldwide Jamat at the forefront of engagement with an increasingly diverse world; the practical implementation of the vision that Mawlana Hazar Imam shares for healthy pluralism can be seen in the institutions such as Global Centre for Pluralism, which he has established and supported to develop a dialogue between communities and engagement with diversity.

The notion of interfaith dialogues involves, at the most basic level, people of different faiths coming together to have a conversation around mutual understanding and promote cross-community interactions. Building on this vision, Jamati institutions worldwide have been engaged in organising different activities and programmes to make the vision of Mawlana Hazar Imam translate into their individual and collective lives. One recent example is a series of events held in Karachi where more than 40 young members of the Jamat, ranging from college students to professionals, gathered to visit sister communities of Pakistan.

As part of the Leadership Enhancement and Advancement Program (LEAP-2022), these events were organized by Human Resource Development Program (HRDC) - a portfolio of the Ismaili Council for Karimabad. Under the theme of “Building Intercommunity Bridges,” the participants visited Dawoodi Bohra, Christian and Zoroastrian communities.

With its aim to develop the next generation of leaders of the Jamat, one of the aims of LEAP is to impart to young youth those values with which they emerge as future agents of reconciliation, dialogue, and peacemaking. Given the vital role that interfaith dialogues play towards peaceful goals and unlocking the path toward addressing current challenges the world faces, these community visits were designed to mobilize a keen sense of social conscience among the participants.

Broadly, at the programme level, these events aim to underline the importance of appreciating inter-cultural and -religious diversity while building real-life connections with sister communities. The programmes hoped to promote social conscience in building a healthy civil society and provide a chance to understand institutional structures and share best practices to serve humanity.

Providing an avenue to bridge building and productive relationships, these events served as an instrument in creating an array of topics for discussion and reflection. Participants were allowed to sharpen their thinking patterns, as an essential area of leadership skills. Reflecting on their experience one participant noted, “It is important and fascinating to have knowledge about and understanding of other religions and beliefs and this initiative helped us to learn the abilities required to communicate effectively with others.”

In addition to presentations of an introduction to the cultural and traditional aspects of each community, the programmes also allowed participants to hold more in-depth group discussions. Participants discussed their respective histories, customs and festivals commonly observed in order to familiarize youth with the expression level of faith through cultural heritage, values and norms that govern social patterns. The youth delved further into these exchanges which proceeded to discovering shared experiences.

Participants also acquired the opportunity to learn about different food and delicacies that are unique to each community. For example, participants tasted the food served in the traditional ‘thaal’ of the Bohra community, which provided an opportunity to sit together to exchange thoughts and understand each other’s histories. Another participant said, “Learning about people of different faiths and communities allowed us to realize the role that religion plays in shaping one’s life.”

While sharing knowledge and understanding of religious festivals, customs and traditions, members of Zoroastrian youth displayed a table of Haft Seen as a sign of the celebration of Navroz, observed by both the Zoroastrian and Ismaili communities. Commenting on the thoughts behind the display, Shireen Mehri, a member of the Zoroastrian community commented, “We believed it would be a true representation of the oneness of humanity and how interconnected we all are.”

Pervasive throughout the sessions was to evoke a spirit of goodwill and develop a lived experience of looking beyond one’s personal interests toward a greater good. Reflecting on this, one participant articulated, “These visits allowed us to understand how positive values, often overlooked, can contribute to feeding into social good.”

These encounters provided a valuable opportunity for participants to go beyond dialogue about faith and traditions in the context of an increasingly fragmented and globalized world and brought individuals together to reflect on how each community can join hands to make this world a better place for all.