Advent and Christian Christmas holidays are a fruitful occasion for interreligious dialogue and exchange in Pakistan, reported Fides News Agency. The National Commission on Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, within the Pakistani Bishops’ Conference, in recent days, organized an interreligious meeting in Lahore ahead of Christmas. Religious leaders and civil authorities were present: in addition to the President of the Commission, Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM, there was also the Provincial Minister of Punjab for minorities and human rights, Ajaz Alam Augustine. Among the Muslim leaders, Hafiz Sayed Ashiq Hussain, Moulana Muhammad Asim Makhdoom, Badar Munir, while there were numerous priests and religious engaged in Islamic-Christian dialogue such as Fr. Inayat Bernard, Fr. Qaisar Feroz, Fr. Francis Sabir and many others.
The assembly was crowded with faithful of different religions, who listened to passages from the Holy Bible and the Koran. The leaders lit candles together, symbolizing the path and the desire for peace, the central message of Christmas. “The Christmas light is a light of peace that brings hope to illuminate darkness and grow in faith”, said Archbishop Shaw.
During the meeting the children of different schools sang Christmas carols and presented works they made in harmony with the spirit of Christmas. The children of St. Mary’s School in Gulberg, Lahore, presented a painted board depicting the history of the crib. The presence of children in the interreligious celebration touched the hearts of those present. Archbishop Shaw praised the students, noting that “we must make young people the new generations ambassadors of peace”.
Muslim leaders paid tribute to Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw with flowers and, giving their greetings, spoke of Christmas as “an extraordinary demonstration of interreligious harmony, in which there is a desperate need in Pakistan”, appreciating the initiative of the Commission of Catholic Bishops.
Francis Nadeem, Executive Secretary of the Commission and organizer of the event, said: “It is up to us to eliminate all forms of discrimination and hatred in our families, societies and in the country in order to grow the seeds of peace, tolerance, and harmony”.
This is the concluding wish of those present, shared by the leaders of all religions: “Dialogue and pray. May Christmas generate peace, tolerance, happiness and solidarity among all religions in the year to come”.