What do Pakistani Christians think of Muslims

Pakistan: Muslims help build a Lady Chapel

Anne Preckel / Andrea De Angelis - Vatican City

“We will never forget the contribution of our Muslim neighbors to this sacred endeavor!” With these words, Father Samran Anwar, pastor of the local St. Joseph Congregation, expressed his joy over the interfaith support to Vatican Radio.

The construction of the chapel has been in progress for a few weeks; the new place of prayer is to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The renovation of the existing building is associated with costs, and part of this is taken over by the Muslim side.

The gesture is "an example of true love and brotherhood," says Father Samran happily. He himself was able to assist in laying the foundation stone for the chapel last November.

"An example of true love and brotherhood"

Gujranwala is 80 kilometers north of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. As far as dealing with religious minorities is concerned, the news from there was rather unpleasant until recently: There was talk of tensions in the relationship between religions and the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. The donation to the St. Joseph Congregation of Butranwali, on the other hand, speaks a different language:

“It's an extremely positive and symbolic gesture. It gives hope to Christians all over the country, ”said Professor Mobeen Shahid in an interview with Vatican Radio. He teaches Islamic thought and religion at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, has written numerous books on Pakistan and has been observing the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Pakistan for a long time.

7 years ago there were still clashes

Seven years ago there were "clashes between young Christians and local Muslims with injured people" in the Butranwali district, reports Shahid. Fortunately, that has changed in recent years. This is thanks, among other things, to the local pastor, who brought young believers into conversation and also tried to involve authorities and institutions. The fruits of this dialogue and peace work are slowly becoming visible, says Shahid.

“In this particular region, the Church is particularly alive. There is a new congregation that has just been established and is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. And where there were still clashes seven years ago, thanks to the local pastor, dialogue and encounters between these young people and also between local politics and religious representatives could be established. "

Interfaith cricket matches

Understanding at the grassroots level is often possible in everyday life, emphasizes Shahid: The endeavor to establish interreligious dialogue is also fed “also from simple opportunities that can be created locally”. For example, there were cricket matches with young Christians and Muslims - this sport excites everyone in Pakistan equally.

The local priest does not state how much money the Muslim side had injected for the new chapel. Even if it will not be enough to complete the construction of the chapel, Father Samran Anwar is simply happy about this grip under the arms, which hardly anyone in Gujranwala would have thought possible just a few years ago.

There are currently 27 Christian communities in Lahore. The congregation of St. Joseph in Gujranwala is a historically significant center of Christianity in East Pakistan and one of the oldest in Lahore: the church was built in 1953 by Belgian Capuchin missionaries.

(vatican news - pr)