PAKISTAN – Christians fight persecution with inter-faith dialogue
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore told a meeting, hosted by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that Christians in Pakistan are fighting persecution and terrorism with interfaith dialogue. Groups are being set up across Pakistan to help Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs understand each other better and recent efforts were beginning to “bear fruit.”
Archbishop Shaw said he hoped such dialogue would result in changes to ofPakistan’s severe blasphemy laws, which have led to the lynching and jailing of increasing numbers of Christians falsely accused of blasphemy. “The blasphemy law is being misused against Christians and that must stop” he said, adding that Christians were being wrongly accused of blasphemy at a rate of about one every two weeks.
Because Christians could not repay “evil with evil,” the solution to ongoing persecution against them was dialogue with the Muslim majority, he believed. Christians had met with senior Muslim scholars and imams in the hope of achieving change.
“We explained that they (the meetings) were not to convert anybody and it was not about a Western agenda, but to learn from one another – what you believe and what we believe,” Archbishop Shaw said. “Through this way, we are able to talk to one another.”
Archbishop Shaw has served on the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue since about the time of his installation in Lahore in 2013. On many occasions he had stressed his views on coexistence to Muslim dialogue partners. The archbishop urged religious leaders repeatedly to preach tolerance in mosques, churches and temples. “This is what I feel the role of teh religious leader to be” he said.
Last March, Archbishop Shaw earned the respect of many Muslims by visiting Muslim victims of a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a children’s playground in Lahore’s Gulshan-I-Iqbal Park on Easter Sunday. The terrorist, a member of a Taliban offshoot, targeted Christian families, but many Muslims were among the 72 killed and 340 injured.
Archbishop Shaw spent a day consoling and praying with all victims and their families at Lahore’s Shaikh Zayed and Jinnah hospitals. He also arranged church-based trauma counseling and rehabilitation for both Christian and Muslim victims.
Many Muslims, including imams, were “very appreciative” of his work. One Muslim cleric told him he was a “sign of unity and peace” for Pakistan.