Pakistani men transport a goat on a motorbike ahead of Eid al-Adha in Karachi on Aug. 20. Muslims around the world will mark the festival by sacrificing sheep, goats, cows and camels to commemorate the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son on Allah's command. (Photo by Asif Hassan/AFP)
With Eid al-Adha just around the corner, the Catholic Church in Pakistan is holding an awareness drive about consumption of sacrificial meat during the annual Muslim festival.
The "Festival of Sacrifice" is celebrated by Muslims to mark the occasion when Allah appeared to the Prophet Abraham in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son Ishmael to demonstrate his devotion to the Almighty.
Ignoring the advice of the devil, who tried to tempt Abraham into disobeying Allah by saying he should spare Ishmael, Abraham was about to press ahead with the sacrifice when Allah stopped him and gave him a lamb to kill instead.
Muslims celebrate Eid by feasting on a sacrificed animal, usually a goat or a sheep.
A view of makeshift camp set up for sacrificial animals in Karachi's busy Gulistan-e-Johar area. (Photo by Zahid Hussain/ucanews.com)
Father Inayat Bernard, rector of Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral, condemned those who term the Muslim feast as "the devil's sacrifice."
"Such misconceptions are spread by semi-literate church leaders during this time of the year. They use selected Biblical verses to prove that this feast honors the devil," he told his congregation on Aug. 19.
"This is Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi (Abrahamic tradition) and relates to a prophet who was revered by three major religions. It is a pure diet and there is no harm in eating it. But do not force others to do so.
"We should abide by cultural norms and share the happiness of our Muslim siblings. It is a part of living the interreligious dialogue as per Vatican Council II teachings. Nothing is haraam (prohibited and sinful) for us except those things that come out of the human body as stated in the Bible."
His sermon was part of a church awareness drive as Muslims in Pakistan finalize preparations for the Islamic festival from Aug. 22-24.
Animals in Karachi's busy Gulistan-e-Johar area to be sacrificed as part the annual Festival of Sacrifice which is celebrated at the conclusion of Hajj pilgrimage. (Photo by Zahid Hussain/ucanews.com)
A delegation from the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism (NCIDE) will visit three mosques in the city during the festival. Archbishop Sebastian Shaw will also host an Eid breakfast on Aug. 24.
"These festivals give an opportunity to share the joys of other communities. Together we shall pray for peace in the country," said Father Francis Nadeem, executive secretary of NCIDE.
Despite church efforts, millions of Christians in Pakistan remain divided on sharing Eid meals. Ucanews.com contacted several priests but most refused to comment. Discussions about consumption of meat are prevalent in Christian circles on social media this week.
According to Church of Pakistan Bishop Jimmy Mathew of Mardan, Catholics are more open to sacrificial meat than Protestants.
"I accept the meat from visitors but distribute it among neighbors," he said. "Christ, as the Lamb of God, sacrificed himself for our sins and we share his blood and meat during the sacrament of Holy Communion."