Lahore, Pakistan, Aug 1, 2014 / 19:05 pm
Catholics in Pakistan reached out to the local Islamic community in an effort to promote peace between the religious groups in their nation and throughout the Middle East.
"The objective of this gathering is to express harmony with our Muslim brethren, to eliminate the gaps and to live peacefully with one another," said Fr. Francis Nadeem of St. Joseph's Parish, Lahore Cantonment, as he welcomed the guests.
"Maintaining peace will help Pakistan to create conducive conditions for economic prosperity and the well-being of a majority of people living in the region," he emphasized.
The Council for Interfaith Dialogue Pakistan hosted an inter-religious banquet with the Islamic community during Ramadan to promote dialogue, friendship and harmony in the Archdiocese of Lahore, about 185 miles from the capital city of Islamabad.
The month of Ramadan is considered the holiest month for Muslims, who observe it rigorously with day-long fasting, offering prayers five times a day and practicing almsgiving.
Muslim leaders and scholars joined in the "iftar," or evening meal that Muslims eat to end their day-long fast at sundown during Ramadan. The event was held with multiple faith groups as an expression of their desire for peace and harmony.
"Fasting is one of the common values prevailing in Islam and in Christianity," explained Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore at the event.
"Fasting teaches us about prayer, tolerance, alms giving and forgiveness," he said. "Fasting is a channel that reduces the gaps prevailing between the two religions."
Asif Nazir a local Catholic teacher and catechesis, explained that inter-religious peace efforts are particularly important at this point in the country's history.
"Peace at this juncture is very important in Pakistan, because for the past few years this country has suffered and has worked hard to establish peace" among religious communities in the region, he told CNA.
Nazir observed that problems with terrorism have also choked the country's economy, which has affected many people and harmed efforts at harmony.
Another initiative in the Archdiocese of Karachi featured a local parish collaborating with Caritas-Karachi to initiate a Peace Walk in solidarity with the victims of tensions in the Middle East, particularly those suffering in Gaza.
St. Philip's Parish teamed with groups from neighboring parishes for the Peace Walk, led by Friar Bernard Bhatti OFM, Fr. Saleem Amir, and Br. Joseph Shamo.
More than 300 participants walked from the seminary on one side of the city to the parish school. Members of the Muslim community also joined in the Peace Walk and were "happy to observe and participate," Nazir recounted.
"Peace is the urgent need of our times," said Friar Bernand Younas OFM Cap. "The world is destroying itself with wars and conflicts. We all need to prayer for the peace of the world."
"Without peace, we are nothing and we will destroy God's creation," he continued. "It is important for us to live and let others live, and love them without any sort of discriminations at all levels."
The friar explained that the goal of the Peace Walk was to increase awareness of "how peace is important in our world…everyone has to play his or her role to promote peace and harmony around them."