ASIA/PAKISTAN - Christians and Muslims in Punjab, among violence and gestures of friendship

Tuesday, 2 May 2017 dialogue   islam   violence   youth   human rights   religious minorities   religious freedom  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - An armed group of 20 to 25-year-old Islamic youths on motorcycles attacked a Christian neighborhood of Bhai Pheru in the Kasur district of Pakistani Punjab in recent days, terrorizing the community and carrying out violence on passers-by. The collective action was the result of an episode that occurred the previous day: A Christian worker, Afaq Masih, 19, was returning home and some young Muslims stopped him and started arguing and beating him. The following day they returned to the district and started throwing stones against Christian homes, threatening the entire community.
The villagers filed a complaint to the police, who were reluctant to arrest the aggressors. "Christians are the most vulnerable part of Pakistani society and, for trivial reasons, are attacked and beaten. Law enforcement is lacking, and often some young people have ties with Islamic militant groups that encourage them to commit violence against Christians", explains to Fides Christian lawyer Mushtaq Gill.
On the other hand, the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan continues in its engagement by fostering friendship and peace gestures among Catholic and Muslim leaders and faithful. As part of a program, the Archbishop of Lahore (capital of Punjab), Sebastian Francis Shaw, president of the Commission, went to a madrasa (Koranic school in Lahore) where he planted an olive tree in a sign of peace. Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Executive Secretary of the Commission was present at the celebration, and both greeted and thanked the leaders of the Jamia Masjid-Kubra Islamic Seminary in Lahore, led by maulana Asim Makhdoom. Fr. Nadeem explained the meaning of the olive tree (mentioned both in the Bible and in the Qur'an), while Archbishop Shaw reaffirmed the goal of "encouraging and facilitating the culture of peace, understanding and harmony among religions in Pakistan, especially Muslims and Christians", thanking for the hospitality and sharing of the same constructive spirit. Islamic leaders shared the desire to continue this kind of activity. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 2/5/2017)