For the students at the ABC4All school in Lahore, Pakistan, interfaith cooperation is a way of life. This small school for Muslim and Christian street children grew out of work the ABC4All Cooperation Circle was doing in one of the city’s slums. Begun informally in September 2009, it officially opened its doors in March 2010, enrolling 71 students between the ages of four and thirteen, all of whom are underprivileged.

“We are creating religious harmony and peace through education in a slum where there was no concept of education,” said Yuel Bhatti, a founder of ABC4All Pakistan and school principal. “We are trying hard to motivate the community that education is the only way towards peace and love for humanity.” Lack of education and opportunity for youth in Pakistan, a country whose literacy rate is just over 50 percent, is often associated with the growth of religious extremism.

Students and their parents participate in interfaith and peacebuilding programs on school premises, as well as programs held at the URI-Pakistan regional office, also in Lahore. Events include celebrations of the International Day of Peace, Symphony of Peace Prayers 2011, and Global Love Day, in which students reflected on the teachings of different religions on love and peace. As part of their first graduation ceremony in March 2011, student celebrated the Season for Nonviolence by planting trees.

The school plans to add classrooms to enroll additional children in the coming year, and is seeking funding and partners for other services to help alleviate poverty in the community, such as youth computer training, vocational training for women, environmental awareness programs, and a women and children’s health care center.

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