01/26/2021, 16.39
PAKISTAN
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Catholic activists promote message of unity in Karachi

by Shafique Khokhar

The National Commission for Justice and Peace in Karachi sponsored the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Fr Saleh Diego said that Jesus wanted all Christians to “be one” and that one must keep in mind what Saint Paul said, “that we all are different parts of the same and one body; if there is pain in any part of our body our whole body feels it.”

Karachi (AsiaNews) – On 25 January, the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the human rights organisation of the Archdiocese of Karachi, celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Christian religious leaders of different denominations, lawyers, journalists and representatives of Christian organisations spoke about the role the Commission plays in the community.

The Week for Christian Unity is celebrated every year from 18 to 25 January. This year its theme was “Abide in my love” and “you shall bear much fruit” (John 15:9,5). We all must grow together in the same unity that was expressed by Jesus himself so “they may all be one” (John 17:21).

Kashif Anthony, human rights activist and coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Karachi, said in his address that the first Week for Unity was celebrated at the Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Protestant Episcopal Church, located on a hill eighty miles from New York City.

The dates of the week were proposed by Fr Paul Wattson, (co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of Gravmoor) between the day of the Confession of St Peter, 18 January, and the day of the Conversion of St Paul which is celebrated on 25 January.

Anthony also said that Pope Pius X blessed the octave for Church unity in 1909. Later, Pope Benedict XV wisely extended and promulgated it to the entire universal Church. Therefore it is observed and celebrated all over the world. Thus, the Catholic Church, which has a sense of responsibility, can approach and join other small and large denominations.

For Kashif Anthony, bringing unity and empowering Christians, is not only the responsibility of the Church leadership, but must be the commitment of every Christian who believes and has faith in Christ Jesus.

The Catholic Church’s mission includes ecumenical observance, which must be passed onto other groups who profess faith in Jesus and belong to other Churches and denominations. It is important to keep in mind that we all walk and grow together in the same unity expressed by Jesus himself when he said, “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).

As an activist of the Catholic Church, Anthony said Christians must keep in mind and practise ecumenism in their lives, so that Christians from different denominations can work together and develop closer relationships and promote unity between their Churches.

In his address, Rev Salman Babar Lal of the Anglican Church of Pakistan and the Diocese of Karachi and Baluchistan, the second largest Church in Pakistan, said he was grateful to the NCJP for bringing together various Churches, Christian civil society groups, and the community of lawyers.

It is important to keep in mind is that Christians must follow the words of Jesus that we be one, not only in the happiest moments, but also in the sad moments of our life.

Unity begins with love and unity is a basic need among the leaders of the Church, community and minorities in Pakistan. We must follow what Jesus said: “Love one another as I have loved you”.

Sabir Michael, professor at the University of Karachi, represented human rights defenders and organisations. He noted that there are two basic institutions, the family and the Church, in which society grows.

If there is no unity in the family or in the Church, there will be no peace, progress and even the diversity, which come from God. We are all different, but God wants us all to live in peace, united, and to love each other.

Love for ecumenism and diversity must begin in our homes so God's love may spread in both good times and bad times, which means that there is a room for diversity in the eyes of God.

Major Haroon of the Salvation Army said that this is indeed the right time to think about unity among Christians and Churches. We have all been struggling and working for interfaith action and for different policies aimed at unity with others, but the Catholic Church has engaged in a great initiative to bring together Christian leaders. Being united and promoting unity among us should be our priority.

Saleem Michael, a lawyer and legal advisor to the Archdiocese of Karachi, said it is indeed the right time to speak and come together, as we are all fighting for our rights and for marginalised people. “Our people are poor and they need our help and if we are not united or if we are not together, what will happen to our people and where will they go?

“Christian religious leaders, civil society leaders, politicians, lawyers and journalists must work together. This is an excellent initiative of the National Commission for Justice and Peace which brought together all the main Christian leaders. Yes, we must all work together for our innocent Christians.”

At the end, NCJP director Fr Saleh Diego, who is also Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Karachi, said that, in the Holy Bible Jesus says, “That they may all be one”. Equally, one must also keep in mind what St Paul said, “that we all are different parts of the same and one body, if there is pain in any part of our body our whole body feels it.”

All Christians, united and bound in the body of Jesus, must feel each other's pain and be united. If someone has separated, they will actually separate themselves from the Body of Christ.

Fr Diego added that we must remain united, so that we can work and guide our faithful together and support them when they are in difficulty.

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