In the midst of political and social turmoil in neighbouring Pakistan, from the town of Faisalabad comes a ray of hope.
With Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, and the season of Lent overlapping, Christians and Muslims have been provided a special opportunity to come together this year in Pakistan.
Every year, the Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad and the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue last week organise an Iftar, the evening meal Muslims have after fasting during the day, with Muslim guests. Last week, a similar dinner was hosted and attended by some of the important Muslim religious leaders of the town. The Iftar was also attended by a representative from the Sikh Community.
The dinner began with Muslim scholar Shahid Anwar reading a passage from the Qurʾān. Fr Pascal Paulus OP followed with the presentation of the event, describing it as an opportunity to share a moment of fraternity, notwithstanding their differences.
Another Muslim scholar, Allama Khurram Saifi, made the observation that it is not often that the two penitential periods overlap; for this reason, this Iftar took on greater significance.
“The month of fasting is a time of prayers, charity and tolerance,” Saifi said. “This year God has showered His blessings upon all of us” as “Lent and Ramadan come together”.
In his view, the “invitation to Iftar dinner from Christians provides a message of acceptance and respect for each other’s faiths.”
A few days earlier, Bishop Inderias Rehmat of Faisalabad along with Fr Khalid Rashid Asi and other religious leaders visited Dar-ul-Aman, a government shelter for women victims of violence. They brought 50 food packages for the residents as an act of almsgiving for the two important religious festivities.
During the Iftar, Bishop Rehmat expressed gratitude to the Muslim religious leaders for their support in critical situations. He then read a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, explaining the meaning of Christian fasting.
“Let us not forget the poor,” the prelate said, “let us do our best so that they can celebrate Easter and Eid with happiness and dignity. I pray to God for political stability in our country and its wellbeing.”
After dinner, the Muslims held the Namāz prayer near the cathedral, as a token of togetherness and peace among communities.
[Based on a report in ASIANEWS]