Pakistani Catholics joined Muslims worldwide in fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The Pakistan Catholics Bishops’ Conference (PCBC) declared a day of prayer and fasting on May 8 to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. “All Christians and people of goodwill are invited to observe this day for the end of the coronavirus that is causing suffering to all humanity,” said Archbishop Joseph Arshad, president of the PCBC. Holy hour was observed at the National Marian Shrine in Mariamabad village of Punjab province. Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore prayed for acceptance of special Catholic fasts.
“Medicine or technology made people forget God. The ‘coronapocalypse’ has affected all nations. Even family members are seeing each other with suspicion. Fear and uncertainty are in homes and outside. Prayers and repentance can help,” Archbishop Shaw said during a live Mass broadcast on the Facebook page of Catholic TV. “For several days we had been praying for a family whose head was corona positive. Thankfully other members were declared safe last week. We thank God for this miracle. We can become witnesses of the love of God.” Allama Mushtaq Hussain Jaffery, a Shia leader, joined Father James Channan, regional coordinator of United Religions Initiative Pakistan, for a combined prayer at Dominican House in Lahore on May 8. “I wanted to show solidarity with our Christian siblings. May Allah bless us all for combined fasting. Such initiatives bring both communities closer,” he told UCA News. Father Channan called for the reopening of churches as Punjab’s government extended the lockdown for another three weeks with exemptions to construction-related businesses, factories, exporters, retail shops, hair salons and gymnasiums, subject to strict adoption of standard operating procedures. Following pressure from the business community, shops will be open four days a week. The government last month allowed Muslim clerics to hold congregational prayers in mosques under a 20-point consensus strategy which includes maintaining a six-foot distance between worshipers. The All Pakistan Churches Council has proposed a similar strategy for churches. “Just like other departments, the government can review church policy if it feels that these precautionary measures are not followed and the number of those affected has reached the danger level,” the council said in a notification. Father Channan backed the proposed policy. “Just like mosques, churches should also be allowed to conduct prayers with limited congregations. Being equal citizens, we demand a uniform policy for all places of worship,” he said. Pakistan has recorded 30,941 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 667 deaths, according to the latest data. The deaths include Major Muhammad Asghar, who has become the first casualty in the country’s armed forces. Asghar managed screening of people and the movement of convoys at Torkham Border, one of two key crossings with neighboring Afghanistan.
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