Minority Rights Commission chief visits Mariamabad shrine
The Archbishop of Lahore welcomed Muhammad Shoaib Suddle, one of Pakistan's foremost Supreme Court officials and anti-terrorism experts. Stressing the importance of the site to millions of pilgrims who visit it every year, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw mentioned the provincial government's commitment to building a new road.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw yesterday welcomed Muhammad Shoaib Suddle, head of the Minority Rights Commission of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, who was on a visit to the Mariamabad National Shrine.
The Marian shrine is located in Mariamabad, one of Pakistan's oldest Christian villages, Sheikhupura District, well inside Punjab province, 115 kilometers from Lahore.
Muhammad Shoaib Suddle is Pakistan's most respected civil servant. In addition to being the head of the Supreme Court's Minority Rights Commission, he is considered a great expert on criminal justice reform and counterterrorism in South Asia.
He served as inspector general of police in Sindh Governorate and in Baluchistan as well as head of Pakistan's premiere civilian intelligence agency.
Welcoming the illustrious guest, Archbishop Shaw explained how the site became a national shrine 80 years ago, a destination for pilgrimages by Christians in Pakistan and abroad.
Since 1949 pilgrims have visited the shrine every year, especially from 7 to 9 September, to celebrate the feast of the Nativity of Mary and pray to Our Lady for her particular intentions.
Muhammad Shoaib asked the archbishop why, at his foundation, the name of Mariamabad was chosen. Archbishop Shaw explained that some Christians came here from areas near Sialkot to work in brick kilns. Belgian missionary Father Leonard saw the Virgin Mary in a dream asking for this place to be dedicated to her, so that so people could receive her blessings and graces. That's why it's called Mariamabad, which means "the city of Mary."
For this reason, the Capuchin Bishop Emanuel Van Der Bosch bought 150 acres of land (0.61 sq km) for 650,000 rupees from the government in 1892, making it the first Christian village, followed later by Khushpur. Eventually, farmers came to Mariamabad to work the land, and now the village is home to 270 Christian families plus some Muslim families.
More than two million pilgrims visit the shrine every year from all over Pakistan as well as abroad. The heart of pilgrimages is Daman-e-Mariam, the Cave of our Lady, famous throughout Asia for its unique setting and for the feast that commemorates the birth of the Virgin Mary every year.
Christian pilgrims are not the only ones to visit the site, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs come as well.
During the visit, Dr Muhammad Shoaib asked about specific problems at the shrine. The Archbishop of Lahore responded by thanking the Government of Punjab for its announcement last January that it plans to build a new 4.1-kilometre road to connect Mariamabad to Sheikhupura, thus making the pilgrimage easier.
Archbishop Shaw also noted that a court also imposed restrictions on some pilgrims travelling on the road leading to the shrine.