Islamabad (Fides Service) – Increase common initiatives, in a spirit of tolerance and harmony; isolate fundamentalists: these decisions were taken by Muslim and Christian leaders at a Dinner on 19 November in Lahore organised by the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Pakistan.
The religious leaders were joined by intellectuals, civil authorities and media operators. The Dinner is an annual closing of Ramadan event aimed to strengthen harmony and solidarity among members of the two religions.
On the occasion the participants received a copy of this years Message for Id al fitr feast issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome which is a message of peace and solidarity towards Muslims all over the world. The distinguished diners agreed on the urgency to continue to promote and support with initiatives to create brotherhood and harmony in order to offer the population examples of peaceful coexistence between religions. “Pakistani Christians want to make it clear that they feel they are fully Pakistani citizens” Father Inayat Bernard, spokesman of the Commission, told Fides.
In the meantime the government of General Musharraf has outlawed three Muslim groups accused of religious extremism, including them in the anti-terrorism law he promulgated. “We must all strive to reject, condemn and stop sectarian and religious extremism, because this threat can bring serious damage to Pakistan’s economic progress”, General Musharraf said. The banned groups banned are Jamiat-ul Furqan, accused of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl; Hezb-ul Tehrir, operative also in other countries; Jamiat-ul Ansar, which masks another group already outlawed which changed its name and is active in Kashmir. Musharraf said the measure was taken to protect national interests.
In a recent interview with Fides, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, President of the Bishops’ Conference was substantially positive towards the present government: “President Musharraf’s position is difficult because he has to deal with militant Islamic parties. The Church approves of his actions because he is trying to isolate Muslim fundamentalism”.
Pakistan has a population of 155 million: 77% Sunni Muslim, 20% Shiite Muslim. Christians are 2.5%, and of these 1.2 million are Catholics. (PA) (Fides Service 21/11/2003 lines 36 words 408)