Pakistani Muslims build church for Christian neighbors

church

World Bulletin / News Desk

In Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province, Muslim villagers are raising funds to help their poor Christian neighbors build a church.

The initiative was begun shortly before Easter by a group of Muslims from a village in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s textile-manufacturing hub.

“There is a tiny Christian population in the village — only 20 families — who have no place to worship,” Fr. Aftab James, the local priest, said.

“Only days before Easter, the initiative was taken up by our Muslim brothers,” he said.

According to Fr. James, Christians of the village had to use someone’s home — or some other site — to perform prayers on holy days.

“Muslim residents of the town, however, offered to build us a chapel as a gift,” he said.

“We are thankful to our Muslim brothers for this wonderful gesture. It makes us feel proud,” the priest said.

The local Christian community is now very excited that they will soon have a church in the village.

“Before we had to rent or borrow a house in which to hold Christmas, Easter and other festivities,” Faryad Masih, a Christian laborer, said.

“But now we will soon have our own chapel,” he said.

“At first I didn’t believe it when Muslim community leaders said they would build us a chapel,” he recalled.

“But to my surprise, construction work began within one month of the initial announcement,” a visibly excited Faryad said.

“Our community’s longtime dream is now coming true,” he said.

Christians, Pakistan’s largest religious minority, account for roughly 3 percent of the country’s total population of some 180 million.

Most of them reside in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, where they are mainly involved in the sanitation, nursing and teaching sectors.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD BULLETIN

Baltimore institute embraces Islam along with Christianity and Judaism

Chris Leighton and Homayra Ziad

Homayra Ziad, a Muslim and native of Pakistan, is as upset as anyone about the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups that she says have threatened to undermine religious tolerance and have placed Islam under a critical microscope in the United States and around the world.

“This for us is a sword in our cultural and religious heart,” she said. “This is painful for everyone.”

But as a full-time scholar of Islam at the Towson-based Institute of Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, Ziad, 38, is not on a mission to fight terrorism around the world, but rather to help Baltimoreans better understand all religions and cultures, including Islam, as a way to “push forward” for peace among the unrest.

Through continuing interreligious programs, seminars and “conversations,” many of which Ziad is leading, “We can certainly have an effect on thinking through habits of mind that lead to polarizing,” she said.

The institute, founded in 1987 and formerly called Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, announced last week that it has changed its name to add the word Islamic. The 30-year-old institute, located on Dulaney Valley Road opposite the entrance to Goucher College, already has a diverse staff of Christian and Jewish scholars. It hired Ziad in September 2014 from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., where she was an assistant professor of religion with a focus on Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN 

Shedding light on Christian-Muslim Relations

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When I was a young boy growing up in Pakistan, I was surrounded by every comfort for which anyone could ask. That is one of the benefits of belonging to a prominent Shia Muslim family. What I understand now that I didn’t back then is that what is accepted by the masses isn’t necessarily all that there is. At least it wasn’t for me.

I had no doubt that my family loved me, and I knew that there were great things in store for me as a leader in our community, especially if I could strive to just be a good Muslim. I loved Islam and everything it taught me. But there was always something else tugging at me on which I couldn’t put a finger.

 Islam is a religion that calls for respect and devotion. I admire those who passionately put their faith first, making sure to closely follow the pillars of Islam. I also admire the faith of those who claim Christ as their savior, and go about sharing His message of love and forgiveness through grace, in spite of the danger they willingly place themselves in. There is no doubt that there are those on both sides that fiercely protect and defend what they know to be true. And as history has shown, that debate can lead to misunderstandings, which often produces horrific repercussions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEF NET

I Worry About Muslims

F201308022014502893368724KARACHI, Pakistan — I worry about Muslims. Islam teaches me to care about all human beings, and animals too, but life is short and I can’t even find enough time to worry about all the Muslims.

I don’t worry too much about the Muslims who face racial slurs in Europe and America, the ones who are suspected of harboring murderous thoughts at their workplaces or those who are picked out of immigration queues and asked awkward questions about their luggage and their ancestors. I tell myself that at the end of their humiliating journeys they can expect privileges like running water, electricity and tainted promises of equality.

I do worry about the Muslims who face extinction at the hands of other Muslims in their own homelands, usually in places where they are in a huge majority. My friend Sabeen Mahmud was murdered earlier this year, probably for not being a good enough Muslim, and it happened in this country, a country so Muslim that you can live your entire life here without shaking hands with a non-Muslim.

But mostly I worry about my kind of Muslims, those who are expected to explain to the world what real Islam is like. We so-called moderate Muslims are urged to take control of the narrative and wrest it away from the radicals — as though we were MFA students in a creative writing class struggling with midterm submissions, rather than 1.6 billion people of maddening diversity.

I worry about the pundits who end up on TV within hours of an atrocity and are required to condemn or defend and explain on our behalf. I worry about those nice folk who are supposed to remind the world that Islam is a religion of peace.

Yes, the word Islam does mean peace. The dictionary says so. But it takes gumption to wave a dictionary in front of someone who has lost a daughter, a son or a partner, and say: “Here, I have something for you. Look. ‘Islam.’ It means peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Defending religious minorities helps majority, faith leaders agree

roberts_pakistanis425KELLER—When Muslims defend Christians in Pakistan and Christians speak up for Muslims in the United States, they not only follow the highest ideals of their religions, but also act in their own enlightened self-interest, a Baptist pastor in North Texas and a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam from Pakistan agreed.

“How we treat Muslims here (in the United States) has an impact on Christians in Pakistan and Egypt and other places around the world. We need to learn how to be civil. We need to teach those who are in the majority how to treat those who are in the minority. We want to pull together pastors and imams in different areas. We need to watch out for religious minorities worldwide.”

Abdul-Khabir Azad, the grand imam of the 350-year-old Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, and James Channan, regional coordinator of the United Religions Initiative-Pakistan, agreed.

In June, Roberts helped facilitate a meeting of 10 Pakistani Christian leaders and 10 imams from Pakistan at the Doha Interfaith Center in Qatar. Now, Azad and Channan want to use that model in their homeland, fostering dialogue and nurturing relationships between religious leaders at the grassroots level.

“We want to heal wounds and build bridges,” said Channan, a Roman Catholic priest and director of the Peace Center of the Dominican Order in Pakistan. The author ofPath of Love: A Call for Interfaith Harmony, he recently received the Global Ambassador of Peace Award from the Institute of International Social Development at the United Nations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BAPTIST STANDARD 

Suspension of Pakistan women’s death sentence ‘shows need’ for Christian-Muslim dialogue

pakistan-christians-protestThe suspension of the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy, by the Pakistan Supreme court has showed the value of Muslim-Christian dialogue, says a priest in the Islamic nation.

“The Supreme Court of Pakistan has made a great move as her death sentence was put aside,” Father James Channan said in a July 23 interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“I firmly believe that justice will be done, that she will be proven innocent and that she will be released,” said the Roman Catholic Dominican priest.

He noted, “The blasphemy law was used (in Bibi’s case) to settle a personal score – the accusation was an act of revenge.”

The Pakistani woman has denied the accusation, saying her accusers were acting out of a personal vendetta.

Asia Bibi spent nearly five years on death following an accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad during an argument, Catholic News Agency reported.

Earlier in July the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended Bibi’s execution, and will soon hear her appeal.

However, CNA reported that many Pakistanis have spoken out against the court’s decision and have said it would carry out the execution even if she is deemed innocent.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECUMENICAL NEWS 

Islam Requires Muslims to Protect Christians

BRmDegHCYAAiv7pFive years ago, I lost close friends in one of the most gruesome terrorist attack on Pakistani soil. In twin attacks on two Mosques in Lahore, 88 Ahmadi Muslim worshippers were killed at the hands of the Taliban. It was a painfully bloody day. This last weekend, I woke up to sad news from Pakistan that made me relive some of that pain.

Fourteen worshipers were killed, and more than 70 were injured, when two Taliban suicide bombers blew themselves up outside churches in the Youhanabad neighborhood of Lahore, Pakistan.

These attacks on Pakistan’s Christian community are not a sporadic event. They are a part of a very tragic trend. Just over a year ago, another suicide attack at a Peshawar church claimed 78 lives. Not long before this, an angry mob torched over a hundred houses in Lahore’s Joseph Colony, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man. Another Christian couple — Shama and Shahzad — were recently lynched and burnt alive in a kiln on similar blasphemy charges. As in the Joseph Colony rampage, this mob violence was also led by a local cleric.

While Pakistan’s minority communities are frequently attacked by religious extremists, the state does very little to protect them. Even in the rare instance that the perpetrators of such attacks are caught alive, they get away with a mere slap on the wrist. Pakistan’s ruling party, the PML-N, is especially notorious in sponsoring hateagainst minority communities in an attempt to appease extremist elements that serve their vote bank. In fact, we now know that the Punjab Government under Mr. Shahbaz Sharif reportedly carried out negotiations with al Qaeda.

The reaction from the masses in Pakistan is not very encouraging either. The majority continue to remain apathetic to the ongoing persecution of minorities. The few that speak up are threatened and intimidated into silence. All this, while the Islamic faith requires that all Muslims stand up to such injustice.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST