12/19/2005, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Christmas in Pakistan: inter-faith dialogue and spiritual renewal

by Yaqoob K Bangash

For the Advent season, the Lahore Catholic community has prepared religious, cultural and sports events to promote inter-faith dialogue and solidarity with those who suffer.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Christian community in Lahore has prepared a series of religious, cultural and sports activities in the lead-up to Christmas. The organizers of all activities have emphasized that the preparation of celebrations and events was purposely subdued in view of the recent earthquake and violence perpetrated against Christians in Sangla Hill. The latter were attacked by a crowd of Muslims who destroyed homes and places of worship because of an alleged case of blasphemy.

A poetry recitation evening, "to mark the birth of the Prince of Peace", was held on December 16 by the National Catholic Literature Board in which various poets, both Christian and Muslim, participated. The chief guests of the evening were renowned national poets Munir Niazi, Amjad Islam Amjad and Dr Kanwal Feroz.

In his address, Feroz said Christian-Muslim relations go back a long time, to the time of the Prophet Mohammad who allowed Christians to pray at his mosque. The poet noted "a close resemblance between the blood shed by Christ on Calvary, and Karbala where the grandsons of Mohammad were martyred.

Fr Francis Nadeem, the organizer of the event, said: "If all the intellectuals try to spread the word that both religions preach peace, brotherhood and tolerance, events like the attacks in Sangla Hill and Shanti Nagar on Christians may never happen again." Fr Nadeem said the best way to celebrate Christmas this year was by "praying and helping victims of the 8 October earthquake which devastated Indo-Pakistani Kashmir", and "to assist the Christian community of Sangla Hill in their hour of need".

The National Council for Inter Faith Dialogue has prepared other events for the Advent season, like a Christmas cake cutting ceremony and a Children's Peace Walk, as well as visits to hospitals by its leaders to distribute Christmas gifts to victims of the earthquake.

On December 9, the New Life Ministries arranged a Christmas programme performed by disabled youth at the Renewal Centre in Lahore: over 1,000 people participated. On the same day, the Kot Lakhpat secondary school, run by Franciscans, organized a sports competition in which all the four Capuchin schools of Lahore participated. The main theme of the event was to promote value education among the students and to inspire in them a sense of religious renewal in the run-up to Christmas.

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