ASIA/PAKISTAN - Prayer celebrated for peace in all churches: a sign of hope for Pakistan

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – The Day of prayer and fasting for peace celebrated yesterday, 30 January, in all the churches in Pakistan, was and is “a bright sign of hope for the whole Country.” It is an initiative which hopes “to convert hearts and to rediscover the good of peace and harmony,” Fides was told by Father John Shakir Nadeem, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, who took part in the celebrations. The leaders and faithful of the religious minorities also joined the Christian initiative, as well as numerous Muslims, because they all “want to create a better Country, in the sign of reconciliation and the common good.”
On the other hand, on the same day in Lahore (as in other cities), more than 40,000 radical Islamic militants demonstrated “against the revision of the blasphemy law, against the freedom of Asia Bibi, against the United States and against the Pope, accused of interference.” This, the priest explained to Fides, is the fundamental difference: “We are not against anyone. We have prayed and fasted, together with all people of good will, because we believe in the values of peace and we want to make our contribution to the Country in this way, as Christians.”.
The Day, called for by the Pakistani Bishops, recorded a massive turnout in all dioceses, “despite the unfavourable climate, risks and suffering that Christians living today in Pakistan experience,” remarked Fr Nadeem. In Lahore a special prayer vigil was held in the Catholic church of St Mary of the Franciscan Capuchin Friars, with the participation of Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore and President of the Episcopal Conference, and Peter Jacob, Executive Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace. Also present were representatives from other Christian denominations and religious minorities such as Hindus and Muslim leaders.
“We need to listen to the voice of conscience, that leads us towards peace and towards good,” said Archbishop Saldanha. “The issue that affects Pakistan today is not of a religious nature, but political,” said Peter Jacob in his address. Muslim leaders present read verses in the Koran that speak of peace, affirming: “Our country needs this.” The faithful present also remembered and prayed for Asia Bibi, the Christian woman unjustly sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.
Faced with the demonstrations by radical Islamic groups, the assembly expressed their unanimous desire to bring them a message of dialogue in the name of the good of the nation, entrusting this to moderate Muslims, who may act as spearheads, hoping to lower the tension and the polarization across society. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 31/1/2011)

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