Churches are offering free food during Lent but say proper awareness is equally important. Every Tuesday and Friday, the parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church get Lent meals, served in the Church compound or in Mariam town, Adah. About 650 families live in this largest Christian settlement of Sialkot parish, Punjab province. Rays of Hope, a Catholic youth group, has been providing free food to poor Christian for seven consecutive Lent seasons. Two cauldrons, each costing about 2800 rupees (US$ 32.88), serve more than 200. “We do it from our personal money and never meant to highlight it”, said Stephan John, the youth leader, who runs his own electronics shop. The other 19 members of his group work in factories making sports products. Similarly, Vicar General Father Andrew Nisari has continued the nine year old tradition of “compassion travels” during Lent in Lahore. Each Lenten Sunday, starting March 13, a bus from Sacred Heart Cathedral has taken parishioners and cooked food to Church run centers for handicapped children and blind Christians. However an integral part of Father Andrew's Lent sermons deal with general misconceptions regarding fasting. “Many believe consuming Holy Communion breaks fast and thus don’t participate in the communion rite. Even my barber thinks that and raised this question”, he told a recent congregation. Similarly, the Catechetical Center of Karachi also organized several consultations focusing on correct church teachings about fasting and the difference between fasting practices in different religions. Father Richard D’ Souza, a senior priest of the archdiocese, says many Catholics now organize fast breaking parties like Muslim fasting. “It is like hosting a feast. I regularly tell people in masses to avoid spending more than on their usual meals. Another common question or concern is about exact time for keeping and breaking a fast”, he said, adding that Christianity does not set rules for a strict discipline. Muslims in Pakistan follow precise prayer timings for fasting depending upon the season. A typical fast in winter involves getting up at 2 a.m for Thajjud (night prayer); eating Sehri (pre dawn meal) till six and then breaking fast at five. The schedule shifts one hour behind in summer (fast breaks at six pm). PA13909.1648
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