09/06/2013, 00.00
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Pakistani Muslims heed pope's "encouraging words" about peace in Syria

by Jibran Khan
Many in Pakistan agree with and support Pope Francis's call for a day of prayer and fasting. A member of the Islamic Ideology Council praises the work done by Christians "whom we join in prayer." For Islamabad Bishop, the pope's cry for peace reiterated across the entire diocese.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "We welcome the words of [the Pope] and support [his initiative] for peace in Syria," Muslims leaders said. As Pope Francis renews his appeals for peace and hope in the Mideast, a region torn by a crisis that could have dire consequences, support for his initiative grows among Muslims in Pakistan.

Often the scene of violence and persecution against minorities by Islamic extremist groups, the Asian country is now hearing voices calling for an end to the conflict, hoping for "unity of purpose" on a global scale to put an end to tensions in the region.

Responding to this call without any hesitation, the Catholic Church of Pakistan, its leaders noted, has always worked "for peace and harmony".

On Sunday, during the Angelus, Pope Francis called for a day of prayer and fasting on 7 September for "peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world."

He also made a direct appeal to the "believers of all faiths and even those who do not believe," to which have already responded Christian and non-Christian leaders close to the Syrian people, ready to support and renew their commitment to end the conflict.

"It is very encouraging to hear the words of the pope on the Syrian situation," said Maulana Tariq Ashraf, a member of the Islamic Ideology Council.

The Muslim leader welcomes "with great pleasure" his words and "support for peace in Syria, as well as his efforts for [mutual] tolerance and peace," praising the efforts made by Christians "whom we shall join in a day of prayer".

The Islamic movement Sunni Tehrik is also set to hold a 'March for Syria' today, September 6.

Skeikh Maulana Hassan Alim, leader of the Dar ul Eliumia, is another Muslim leader who responded to papal appeal, calling it "positive" from the point of view of "peace and tolerance."

"We welcome the initiative," he said, "and condemn what is happening in Syria. It is time for the world to unite, for peace in the region."

Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi, has been won over by the Argentine pope's cry for peace, in which he urged people of all faiths to come together tomorrow for a day of prayer and fasting whilst condemning "the use of chemical weapons and the loss of innocent lives."

"We pray for peace in the region," the bishop said. "The Catholic Church in Pakistan has always been on the side of peace and harmony."

Fr John James, a priest in Lahore, echoed the bishop's appeal, saying that a call to prayer is "very important" because "it can move mountains."

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