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Pakistani Christians urge tolerance during Ramadan

Messages of peace flood social media despite violent protests over the arrest of an extremist group's leader

Pakistani Christians urge tolerance during Ramadan

A Ramadan greeting by the interfaith Rawadari Tehreek (Movement for Tolerance). (Photo supplied)

Christians in Pakistan are using social media to promote peace during Ramadan as violent Islamist protests choke traffic around the country. 

“Ramzan Mubarak (congratulations) to all Muslims. Please demonstrate tolerance this Ramadan. God bless to all,” stated Shireen Aslam, a member of the Attock district human rights committee in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in a Facebook post.

Several pastors and church workers have also updated their WhatsApp status with greetings for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and prayers.

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“Wishing you all a safe and healthy Ramadan,” said Amir Robin, national coordinator of monitoring and evaluation at Caritas Pakistan.

Christian social media users have been sharing similar messages in the wake of violent clashes between thousands of Islamists and police since April 12 in protest against the arrest of Saad Rizvi, head of the extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), ahead of rallies denouncing French cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Dominican Father James Channan, regional coordinator of United Religions Initiative Pakistan, also greeted his Muslim friends who regularly join his interfaith seminars.

I urged them to share the love of God with others

“I wished them blessings of Ramadan for unity and peace in our country gripped in violence. I urged them to share the love of God with others. We are also planning an Iftar party for fewer than 40 guests in observance of Covid-19 standard operating procedures,” he told UCA News.

Interfaith Iftar meals are an annual tradition in Muslim-majority Pakistan where religious minorities such as Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus live in daily fear of violence or harassment.

Church compounds are the usual venues for interfaith commissions and Christian non-government organizations. Christian interfaith groups and even sanitary workers host the breaking of the fast Iftar dinners.

The arrangements are the same every year. Squash and fruits are offered for breaking fasts. The guests offer Maghrib (evening) prayer inside the church. Poems and speeches are then made on interfaith harmony before the dinner.

Last year Pakistan Catholics Bishops’ Conference declared a day of prayer and fasting during Ramadan to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan's Ehtram-e-Ramzan (respecting Ramadan) law bans eating, drinking or smoking in public places during fasting hours. The punishment can be three months in prison, a fine of up to 500 rupees (US$3.27) or both. Some Christians say the law is used against religious minorities.

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