03/11/2019, 17.09
PAKISTAN
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Lahore archbishop calls for one hour of smartphone fasting during Lent

by Kamran Chaudhry

According to Mgr Sebastian Shaw, mobile phones are a source of distraction and can lead to dependency. The bishop of Hyderabad agrees. The head of a Karachi charismatic group says that phone fasting is too much. “There are many other forms of distraction in churches, like children running around and families chatting with each other."

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Mgr Sebastian Francis Shaw, archbishop of Lahore, has called on Catholics to refrain from using their smartphones during Lent, a time of penitence and fasting that prepares for the resurrection of Christ.

Last Friday, he spoke to the faithful present in Lahore’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. In His address, he called for "An hour of fasting from smartphones to avoid distractions during the 14 stations of the Via Crucis and Sunday Mass. Mobile phones are like having Satan stashed away in your pockets when you come to church."

Young Pakistanis, like young people around the world, have taken to mobile phones with a vengeance. The are at least 155.4 million mobile phones in the country. According to the Pakistani telecommunications authority, about 63 million users have signed contracts for 3G or 4G connections.

At the same time, research on communication and information technologies show that in Asia – especially South Asia - there is a lack of knowledge of how the internet works and its dangers. In Pakistan, around 69 per cent of the population do not even know what the internet is.

Mgr Shaw wants to warn young people against developing a dependency, like drugs. "Young people keep sending messages even while they are praying," he bemoaned.

Instead, they should "use this six-week period to analyse their life, and give up habits and behaviours that increase the distance among them. Be firm in the face of temptation," he urges them.

In Pakistan, the use of mobile phones inside churches is a serious issue, also related to terror attacks. For this reason, Church authorities have banned photo or video taping equipment in them, including during religious holidays like Easter and Christmas.

Mgr Samson Shukardin, bishop of Hyderabad (Sindh province) supports his fellow bishop in Lahore. "Although it is a great source of information at one’s fingertips, the unbridled use of mobile phones is most dangerous for young people. For example, radiation is harmful and causes cancer; some use it for the wrong reasons and it can destroy families."

Adeel Pratras, 28, disagrees. For the past 10 years, he has led the charismatic movement at St James parish in Karachi. In his view, Mgr Shaw "is too critical. Describing smartphones as satanic sends a wrong message to Protestants and people of other faiths. Catholic Church leaders could simply invite the community to put the 'silent' mode during prayers. There are many other forms of distraction in churches, like children running around and families chatting with each other."

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