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April 10 2013 | LAHORE, PAKISTAN

Christians and Muslims back to Joseph Colony with a message of peace

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The Imam of the Great Mosque “Badshai” of Lahore, Maulana Azad Kahbir, has been the first one to make the proposal. He is a friend of Shahbaz Bhatti and a man committed into dialogue among religious communities: the proposal is to visit the “Joseph Colony” area in Lahore together with the Community of Sant’Egidio. It is the place where, just few weeks ago, more than 200 Christian houses were burned under the pretext of an alleged case of blasphemy. Immediately after the tragedy the Imam was already active in order to pacify the anger of the people and to bring solidarity to the families of Christians who had lost their houses and all their belongings because of the attack.

A delegation formed by both representatives of Sant’Egidio in Pakistan and some Imams of Lahore has made a recognition into the area; they wanted to check the progresses of the reconstruction of the destroyed or damaged houses. Their presence together offered a message of peace and reconciliation to the people who were still frightened by the accident.

This time the Christian families affected did not flee away. 
At the beginning they were hosted in some tents within the neighborhood, but after two weeks they returned to their homes. In fact, the reconstruction has immediately started. Thanks to the contribution of many Muslims of good will, a very important signal for peaceful coexistence among people of different faiths has been delivered. It is now clear that several houses of Muslims have been burned too during the foul attack.

The people met by the delegation expressed their gratitude for the solidarity received by some organizations such as the Community

 of Sant’Egidio and the local Caritas. Walking around the neighborhood some signs of the violence were still evident despite the reparations, but the worst evidences were the wounds in the hearts of the people. Joseph Colony is a small Christian enclave in “Badami Bagh” district: Christian and Muslim families -who until a few days before were living and working together- suddenly found themselves one against each other.

Maybe for the first time in the history of Pakistan, a movement of solidarity and coexistence among people of different religions has born after these tragic events. The letter of Imam Khabir Azad and the reaction of many other Imams who condemn the attacks are a sign and a hope that an end to the evil of division and violence in Pakistan can be reached.





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