Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - During Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic religion which is underway and will end on April 21, the practice of iftar (the dinner that breaks the daily fast of the Muslim faithful) is an opportunity for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and believers of other religions to meet, share and be friends.
As Fides learns, during Ramadan many Catholic institutions in Pakistan organize and invite Muslim believers to iftar, which thus becomes a fruitful occasion for knowledge, dialogue, human relations and coexistence, having a meal together.
At the Lahore Peace Centre, Father James Channan, a Dominican priest and director of the Centre, organized an iftar attended by over a hundred Muslim believers, including religious leaders, doctors and nurses, women and children, with the idea and the spirit of promoting and living the interreligious dialogue to which the Peace Center is dedicated. During the dinner, many mutual messages of appreciation, respect, esteem and willingness to build brotherhood were expressed by Muslim and Christian believers.
Patrick's Higher Institute where, in a friendly atmosphere, Archbishop Benny Mario Travas and Cardinal Joseph Coutts, together with students and people of Christian and Muslim faiths, gathered alongside the Rector, Father Mario Rodrigues. Archbishop Travas emphasized
"sharing a meal, praying together and above all loving God, loving one another, is a very important testimony for Pakistani society. We are called to take care of the poor and needy, and to spread the great news of brotherly love and care for one another”.
Among other initiatives, a special women's group, made up of women of different faiths, continues to propose and organize interreligious iftars throughout the country, and has also found space in the mass media as an example and means of inclusion, social promotion, emancipation and development of women in Pakistan.
The Sikh faithful also participate in this spirit: in Lahore, Sardar Darshan Singh, a merchant of the Sikh community, organizes iftar every evening at the city's Liberty Market, stating that "eating together symbolizes service, love and unity", in a gesture which, he observes, "is intended to express goodwill and the desire to promote interreligious harmony".
It should be noted that in Pakistan, the month of Ramadan in 2023, falls in a situation of economic crisis: due to the current high rate of inflation (increased by 35% in the last month alone) and the consequent increase of food prices, hundreds of people find themselves in difficulty or in a state of poverty and turn to charities for iftar. The economic crisis has disturbed the serenity and brought to their knees millions of families who are struggling to buy dates, rice and the meat necessary to break the daily fast. Observers say Pakistan, which has a population of more than 230 million, is facing one of the worst economic depressions in its history. At the root of the problem, severe flooding last fall devastated much of the country's agricultural crops, ruining grain harvests and damaging huge swaths of farmland.
The difficulty of obtaining basic necessities fuels the anger of the population and riots and demonstrations are to be feared. In this context, the presence of Catholic communities and other religions, which organize, finance and offer iftar to Muslim believers, especially the poorest, is a gesture much appreciated by religious leaders, civil authorities and citizens. (PA (Agenzia Fides, 18/4/2023)