KARACHI: March 27. Pakistani Christian leaders secured an open-ended pledge from an influential Muslim party to stop terrorist groups from attacking Christians and their places of worship. The pledge came in a landmark dialogue with the Jamaat-e-Islami party leadership here Tuesday night. "I promise the Christian leadership that together we will make sure there won't be any more attacks on churches," said Mairaj-ul-Huda, the party's chief in Karachi. "I promise that if your community groups take one step, then we will take two," Huda told Christian leaders who had been invited at his party's Noor-e-Haq headquarters.
Some 70 local Christians, including the Church of Pakistan's Bishop Sadiq Daniel, two Catholic priests and three former members of the provincial assembly attended the meeting. The dialogue was conducted in the backdrop of two separate stoning attacks on the homes of Christians in the city this week. The attacks were in retaliation against America and Britain's joint war on Iraq.
The Jamaat-e-Islami leader also urged the Christian visitors to organize inter-faith meetings on a regular basis. "We don't want to see any animosity between adherents of our two great faiths. We want only peace," he said. "Toward that cause we need to hold inter-faith meetings and promote greater understanding," he added.
The meeting began with two short prayers, one each by a Muslim and a Christian cleric. Following that a federal lawmaker from the Muttahida Majilis-e-Amal delivered a welcome speech and invited Christian leaders to take the podium one by one. Younus S Khan and Ishaq Inayat, both city councilor's, spoke of the dangers faced by Pakistani Christians following the war in Iraq and their community's suspected support for US actions. Zahid Anwar, a Christian leader from Lahore, pointed out that the war was largely unpopular and was opposed by almost all Christians. "This is not a clash of civilizations, as has been shown by the strong opposition of the Christian religious leaders," Anwar said.
In his speech, former provincial lawmaker Saleem Khurshid Khokhar declared his community's clear opposition to the war in Iraq but voiced his protest at the recent effigy burning of a cross-bearing US president. "We resent the malevolent action to hang a cross on George Bush and then burn that image. To burn the symbol of our faith is unacceptable," Khokhar, told the JI leaders. Another former legislator, Michael Javed, urged Muslims not to view the war through the prism of faith. "This is not a war between Christian and Muslims. In any case Christian countries have been much more vocal in their opposition to the war than Muslim states," Javed claimed. He called upon the JI leadership to educate other Muslims about the feelings of their Christian brethren.
Two Catholic priests--Franciscan Father Paschal Robert and Dominican Father Younus--vowed that Jesus Christ had advocated their community members only wanted to live in brotherhood and peace, as. "We are extremely disappointed that the US has turned the Pope's request not to wage war," Fr. Pascal said. Noting that there were more Christians in Iraq than in Pakistan, Fr. Younus said the church had as much cause to feel concerned by the war in Iraq.
Responding to the speeches of Christian leaders, Mairaj-ul-Huda said," I salute the Pope, as well as Europe's and the world's Christians for their wide opposition to the war." Huda said he shared the disappointment of the Christian leadership over the US rejection of peace options. The Jamaat leader also criticized the role of some Muslim states for "facilitating the war by handing over bases to the Americans". He promised to discuss the Christian viewpoint on the war with other component parties of the multiparty MMA religious grouping.