The Archbishop of Lahore, Muslim authorities and political leaders offer comfort and solidarity to the Christian community of Jaranwala after the wave of violence sparked by an alleged blasphemy charge on August 16.
By Edoardo Giribaldi
Sebastian Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore, along with Muslim leaders and Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, Pakistan’s interim Prime Minister, visited Christian families in Jaranwala, in the industrial district of Faisalabad, to bring them solidarity and comfort after the attacks. on August 16 initiated by an alleged accusation of blasphemy.
The violence against Christian buildings began after some people reported finding some pages of the Koran with allegedly blasphemous writings in the area of the Christian community.
The number of buildings of worship attacked is 21, according to the executive director of the United Council of Churches, Samson Suhail. More than 80 houses were also said to have been attacked, but no serious injuries were reported.
consolation and solidarity
During his visit, Archbishop Shaw listened and prayed with displaced families. The meeting acquired an even more important symbolic meaning, since it was attended by Muslim leaders who, from the beginning, strongly condemned the acts of violence and expressed their solidarity and common prayer.
“What we have seen is terrible devastation. People are shocked and desperate, with nothing. It is up to us to bring a modicum of comfort by witnessing the love of Jesus,” Archbishop Shaw said.
He also highlighted the need for both psychological and material assistance. The latter will be managed with Cáritas and volunteers from different religious congregations.
“We are with you”
The Jaranwala community, which includes adherents of different religions and Muslim citizens, also received a visit from Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, Acting Prime Minister of Pakistan.
“The Christian community has played an important role in the creation of Pakistan,” declared the Prime Minister, identifying it as an essential part of the nation and stressing that it is “the responsibility of every Muslim to protect minority communities.”
“We are with you,” he added. “We will be the voice of the voiceless. We will enforce the law, and they will find that the State and society stand by them not only verbally but also with tangible and meaningful gestures.”
The Prime Minister also distributed checks worth Rs 2 crore each to Christians whose houses were destroyed during the violence.
The role of inter-religious dialogue, underscored by the visit of Muslim leaders, was reinforced by the appeal of the international association “Religions for Peace” to “ecumenical and inter-religious partners around the world to say ‘no’ to all forms of violence and oppression, and to continue to pray and build justice and peace in Pakistan.”
The effects of violence
Speaking to Vatican News the day after the attack, Paul Bhatti, brother of slain Christian politician Shahbaz Bhatti, commented on the devastating effects of the wave of violence.
Bhatti also called for a reexamination of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. “It is unacceptable – he observed – that the people take justice into their own hands and try to attack the Christian people”.
Prevent future incidents
in a interview with Vatican NewsArchbishop Joseph Arshad, president of the Pakistani Bishops’ Conference, called for an honest exercise of justice “to stop such incidents in the future.”
Bishop Arshad also highlighted the acts of solidarity of the Muslim community and how everyone intended to keep the situation under control “and help these people.”