Pakistan Muslim clerics praise Pope Francis

Pope seen as 'prophet of love' helping Syrian refugees and standing up for interfaith harmony
Pakistan Muslim clerics praise Pope Francis

Pope Francis gestures at St Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sept. 3. (Photo by AFP) 

Islamic scholars and clerics paid tribute to Pope Francis for strengthening ties with the Muslim world and helping Syrian refugees at a UN World Peace Day celebration on Sept. 18.

Holding up a magazine carrying photo of the pope’s recent meeting with the Grand Imam of Sunni al-Azhar University, Mufti Syed Ashiq Hussain addressed a gathering at the Dominican Peace Center in Lahore. The mufti was speaking at the celebration of World Peace Day and Eid al-Adha organized by the United Religious Initiative Pakistan and the Dominican Peace Center. The actual date of the U.N. special day is Sept. 21.

"To educated Muslims, Pope Francis is a prophet of love," he said. "He has set an example to respect mankind and human dignity which has become an argument for peace activists and has ashamed hate promoters. His action shows what he carries in his heart. More people should share his stories on social media," he said.

"We were touched when he washed and kissed feet of Muslim refugees at the Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. The pope has said and done things even no Muslim king could do," the mufti said.

Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore joined the Islamic clerics in releasing balloons and pigeons. The event included speeches on the theme of "building blocks of peace," songs and poetic tributes.

While most of the Muslim clerics appreciated organizers for sharing in the joy of the recently concluded Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, many also lauded the church's efforts to build peace and interfaith harmony.

"The pope is also a role model for us. He initiated the Year of Mercy when the world needed it the most. His efforts can bring change," said Sohail Ahmad Raza, Director of Interfaith Relations at Minhaj-ul-Quran International.

Muslims around the world widely support Pope Francis for his stance against stringent immigration policies in Europe. The Vatican is presently hosting 19 Syrian refugees including 17 Muslims, following the visit of the pontiff to detention camps on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16. 

Raza also recalled his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI when he visited Vatican in 2011 on the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

"Some Muslim groups had reservations on the approach of former Pope Benedict but Francis clearly fits our criteria for a world leader," said Raza. "He has practically become a bridge between the two communities. No other personality has worked day and night for interfaith harmony." 

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