By M Zulqernain
(Eds: Adds fresh quotes)
Lahore, Feb 18 (PTI) UN chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is a practical example of Pakistan's desire for peace and inter-faith harmony, as he visited the revered Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandhik Committee and Evacuee Trust Property Board officials received the UN Secretary General at Kartarpur Sahib, some 125kms from Lahore. A Sikh boy presented him a bouquet.
Guterres was also briefed about the Kartarpur Corridor pact between Pakistan and India. He was told that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan took this initiative to facilitate the Sikh community of India and elsewhere to visit the shrine.
The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur - the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev - to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.
Wearing an orange scarf, Guterres visited different parts of the Gurdwara. He was served with traditional food in lunch along with Sikhs and Pakistani officials.
Strict security measures were taken during the visit.
Indian Sikhs in good number were also present at Kartarpur Sahib.
Talking to media persons, the UN Secretary General said the Kartarpur Corridor is a practical example of Pakistan's desire for peace and inter-faith harmony, Radio Pakistan reported.
He said the opening of the corridor is a good step and it will promote tolerance and interfaith harmony.
The UN chief appreciated the facilities being provided to Sikh pilgrims at the complex.
Talking to the state television after his visit, Guterres said: "This is a very emotional moment... and I cannot be here without having a very strong feeling. It is wonderful to see interfaith dialogue. It is wonderful to see in the same shrine today Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, maybe Hindus -- all worshipping in harmony and in peace".
He further said this is the best symbol that "we can give for a world in peace and for a world in which there is a mutual respect and there is the acceptance of what is different — recognising that diversity is a blessing, is a richness, not a threat.
"When we see so many parts of the world fighting in the name of religion, it's necessary to say that religions unite us for peace and the best symbol is this shrine".
Later in the day, he visited Badshahi Masjid and had dinner at Hazuri Bagh area outside the Lahore Fort.
"I've been to Amritsar, today I'm here, to pay tribute to the contribution of the Sikh community all over the world for our planet. I'm a Christian but I feel very much at home when I am in a Sikh shrine and where I can pray to God here together with the Sikh community," he said.
Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9, 2019 in connection with the 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the corridor from the Indian side on the same day by flagging off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims, including former premier Manmohan Singh and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.
Earlier in the day, Guterres addressed students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences and urged them to focus on new technologies. He termed climate change as the major issue the world is facing today. He also inaugurated a polio campaign.
Pakistan is one of the three countries where polio is still endemic. PTI MZ NSA AKJ CPS