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Bishop Joseph Arshad: “Lohri festival – to wish each other well, peace, and prosperity”

So far Pakistan is known for its difficult interreligious relationships. Blasphemy law for instance anticipates separation of religious communities. Nonetheless interfaith and intercultural harmony takes place in Pakistan. S. Sheeky, a Pakistani journalist, witnessed it in Faisalabad at the cultural festival “Lohri” which was attended and peacefully celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

 

Typical folcloric dances at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad. (Foto: Faisalabad Arts/ S.Sheeky)

Typical folk dances at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad. (Photo: Faisalabad Arts/ S.Sheeky)

By S. Sheeky , Faisalabad, Pakistan

2-Day Lohri cultural festival was celebrated under the banner of South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), a secular organization, in collaboration with Kuknas theatre group and Faisalabad Arts Council, at Faisalabad on 20th and 21st of January, and joined by above 1500 people including representatives of media groups & NGOs, and people from different schools of thought and Muslim, Christian and Sikh communities.

“It is a universal truth that grief reduces and happiness increases by sharing with others. Lohri is one of the festivals where family and friends gather together to wish each other well, peace, and prosperity,” said Joseph Arshad, the Bishop of Faisalabad diocese.

Lohri is a vibrant Punjabi festival held in January (in start of Punjabi month ‘Magh’) and dedicated to the end of winter season, signifies the harvesting of crops and is consider as a symbol of renewal of life, and respect to the seasons and the natural elements. The harvesting season signifies a period of plenty, peace, happiness and celebrates the importance of fertility in families. Lohri is a great occasion that holds great importance for farmers, because Punjabi farmers see the day after Lohri as the financial New Year.

Other guests of the festival stated:

“Lohri is a thanksgiving festival, and part of the culture of the Punjab Province, which allows people and communities to burn up their biases and hatred in order to create a harmonious community and society.” (Ms. Amina Zaman, human rights activist, and director of Agency for Sustainable Development Pakistan)

“Lohri festival is attributed to the Punjabi culture, not to any religion, sect or ethnicity tradition. The culture is a thing which unites different people and communities rather religions, sects, gender, or ethnicity divide people on different grounds. There is a need to revive peace process, and transform nature and circumstances into culture for peaceful coexistence.” (Muhammad Tahseen, director of SAP-PK)

“Lohri is not a festival of the Sikhs, but it is a festival of the Punjabis. It is pity that such cultural event which make the bonding among people strong, are seldom celebrated in Pakistan.” (Tauheed Ahmed Chattha, educationist, and director of Kuknas theatre group)

A peaceful get-together of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad (Photo: S. Sheeky)

A peaceful get-together of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad (Photo: S. Sheeky)

Lohri is referred to as the tale of Dulla Bhatti, a rebel and central character of most Lohri songs, who lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was regarded as a hero for Punjabis. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East from the Sandal Bar region, now known as Faisalabad in Pakistan. He arranged their marriages to boys of their religion with rituals and provided them with dowries. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.

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The build up to the 2015 General elections is causing a lot of tension in Nigeria

By Rev. Fr. Maurice Kwairanga

Rev. Fr. Maurice Kwairanga, JDPC Coordinator, Katholische Diözese von Yola, Nigeria.  Foto: missio

Rev. Fr. Maurice Kwairanga, JDPC Coordinator,
Katholische Diözese von Yola, Nigeria.
Foto: missio

Rev. Fr. Maurice Kwairanga, Coordinator of the “Justice development and Peace Commission” (JDPC) in Nigeria, explains in a short message to missio Aachen, what should be politically avoided in preparing the upcoming General Elections 2015: 

The build up to the 2015 General elections is also causing a lot of tension in the country as these Islamists are demanding the end to Jonathan’s rule which is perceived as representing Christianity and should not seek re-election in the upcoming election. The President also is not helping matters as he frequently visits Pentecostal Churches on Sundays where he has made some policy statements thereby angering the Islamists and their sympathizers to prove their accusation. Recently, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Kaigama advised the Nigerian President on Sahara TV to desist from making policy statements in Churches as this has the potency of putting Christians in harms-way. The social media is full of angry sentiments between Muslims and Christians.

Report of “International Crisis Group” on “Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan”

Sicherheitskräfte begleiten einen Sonntagsgottesdienst in der Kathedrale von Lahore in Pakistan. Foto: missio/H. Schwarzbach

Sicherheitskräfte begleiten einen Sonntagsgottesdienst in der Kathedrale von Lahore in Pakistan. Foto: missio/H. Schwarzbach

Die unabhängige Nicht-Regierungsorganisation “International Crisis Group” beobachtet, analysiert und erstellt Politik-Vorschläge für langanhaltende internationale Konflikte und für Regionen, deren Sicherheit durch Gewalt jeglicher Art gefährdet ist. Präsidentin der “International Crisis Group” ist nach Angaben der Organisation Louise Arbour, die frühere Hochkommissarin der Vereinten Nationen für Menschenrechte. Weitere Informationen im Internet unter www.crisisgroup.org. Der Bericht der “International Crisis Group” zu Pakistan ist am 23. Januar 2014 erschienen. Wir veröffentlichen hier eine Kurzfassung des Berichtes der Organisation ohne redaktionelle Veränderung:

Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Endemic violence in Pakistan’s urban centres signifies the challenges confronting the federal and provincial governments in restoring law and order and consolidating the state’s writ. The starkest example is Karachi, which experienced its deadliest year on record in 2013, with 2,700 casualties, mostly in targeted attacks, and possibly 40 per cent of businesses fleeing the city to avoid growing extortion rackets. However, all provincial capitals as well as the national capital suffer from similar problems and threats. A national rethink of overly militarised policy against crime and militancy is required. Islamabad and the four provincial governments need to develop a coherent policy framework, rooted in providing good governance and strengthening civilian law enforcement, to tackle criminality and the jihadi threat. Until then, criminal gangs and jihadi networks will continue to wreak havoc in the country’s big cities and put its stability and still fragile democratic transition at risk.

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Patriarc Ibrahim: Christians in Egypt benefits from new Constitution

Patriarch Irbahim Isaac Sedrak

Patriarch Irbahim Isaac Sedrak

Die von der ägyptischen Übergangsregierung vorgeschlagene neue Verfassung ist bei der Volksabstimmung am 14. und 15. Januar mit 98,1 Prozent der Stimmen angenommen worden. Das teilte die Wahlkommission mit. Die Stimmbeteiligung habe bei 38,6 Prozent der mehr als 53 Millionen Wahlberechtigten gelegen. Damit hätten sich rund 20,5 Millionen Bürger an dem Referendum beteiligt. Der koptisch-katholische Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak hat für missio Aachen dazu eine Analyse geschrieben, was die neue Verfassung für die Christen in Ägypten bedeutet. Hier die Analyse in Englisch:

  • The new constitution is considered  one of the longest constitutions of  Egypt, as it reached the number of (247) articles , including 42 new article , 18 articles in the freedoms section  and 45 articles concerning  workers and peasants.
  • The Constitution includes several articles -and not only one –that concern the Christian citizens directly these articles are: (3-50 – 53-64 – 74-180 – 235-244).
  • That in addition to the preamble and some other articles  that do not refer directly Christians, but they benefit from them, especially in the field of public rights and freedoms, as the following:

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Pakistan: Civil society demands end of violence

Civil society calls upon government to end violence on different grounds

by S.Sheeky

Friedensdemonstration am Weltfriedenstag Anfang Januar 2014 in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Foto: S. Sheeky)

Peace Rally on world day of peace on 1st January 2014 in Faisalabad, Pakistan. (Photo: S. Sheeky)

Faisalabad (Pakistan)- The government must take decisive measures against anti-peace elements sowing and inciting panic, rifts and hatred on various grounds in the society for their vested interests, and put an end to the violence sparked by ethnicity, colour and creed. This was emphasized by the participants of the Peace Rally to mark world day of peace held at Faisalabad on 1st January 2014.

“Discrimination is the root cause of conflicts in Pakistan”
Speaking on the occasion, a human rights activist, Naseem Anthony stressed the need to work together for shunning the differences by allowing and respecting other people’s rights to exercise their beliefs, and join hands for a peaceful society where every segment of society is coexisting, and hatred and intolerance is eliminated. “The discrimination on different grounds is the root cause of conflicts in Pakistan, which causes violence in the society, therefore, the educational curricula should be purged of all kinds of literature inciting hatred so that it promotes values of peace and respect for human rights,” he demanded.

“The government must protect the rights of marginalized groups”

The director of the PHD Foundation, Suneel Malik said, “The government must take strict action against non-state actors who take the law in their hands and propagate or encourage militancy and extremism through their words or actions. We must not let anyone mislead us in the name of religion or ideology” “The state must ensure the rule of law and writ of the government in Pakistan, and play its key role in protecting the rights of marginalized groups,” he added.

Auch Frauen gehen auf die Straßen und fordern ein Ende der Gewalt. (Foto: S. Sheeky)

Women demand peace and justice. (Photo: S. Sheeky)

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Peshawar Church bloodbath, from memories to nightmares

By Kamran Chaudhry, Peshawar, Pakistan

All Saints Church in Peshawar. (Foto: Kamran Chaudhry)

All Saints Church in Peshawar. (Foto: Kamran Chaudhry)

Kamran Chaudhry is a Lahore based journalist working as communications officer of Caritas Pakistan. He has been bureau chief of ucanews for more than seven years.

The news of deadliest attack on Christians this Sunday deeply depressed everybody but for me it was personal; especially after earlier video clips showed my childhood friends helping the injured worshippers.

As I saw it frozen on my television screens, a sudden phone call made it more painful. “We are in the All Saints Church, everybody has died buddy”, one of my friends in Peshawar told me crying.

I spent that evening in front of the Punjab Assembly building, Lahore, together with about 400 demonstrators including church workers from Caritas Pakistan CP and Justice and Peace Commission Major Religious Superiors. We also prayed for 83 deceased and over 100 injured. We chanted slogans against Taliban and spoke with several news channels. We staged simultaneous solidarity protests the next day but this was not enough for me.

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Christliche Aktivisten aus Pakistan zum Anschlag auf Kirche in Peshawar

Von S. Sheeky, Faisalabad

Proteste nach einem Anschlag in Faisalabad.

Proteste in Faisalabad nach einem Anschlag auf eine anglikanische Kirche in Peshawar. Foto: missio

Der Autor hat im Auftrag von missio Aachen nach dem Anschlag vom 22. September auf eine anglikanische Kirche im pakistanischen Peshawar mit rund 100 Toten in Pakistan Stimmen und Stimmungen gesammelt. Dazu hat er Bilder von Protesten nach dem Attentat geschickt. Hier ist sein Bericht:

Thousands of Christians and Muslims took out rallies and staged protests in all major cities and towns all around the country against the Sunday’s twin suicide attacks in a church in Peshawar in which about 100 Christian believers lost their lives and over 100 sustained injuries.

In Faisalabad, the Christian community took out many protest rallies today and yesterday, and chanted slogans against the terrorists. They burnt tyres and blocked the main roads. Children, students, sanitary workers, nurses, political workers, old citizens, fathers, nuns, Muslim clerics and media personage participated in rallies with zeal and zest holding crosses, banners and placards with different slogans and verses. Christian and Muslim community leaders like Fathers, Muslim and Christian activists expressed their grief and concerns during these protest rallies and said Pakistan came into being after the joint efforts of both Muslims and Christians communities with a vision that minorities would enjoy equal rights. They lamented that the minorities are being treated as the second class citizens in Pakistan, which is against the very spirit and slogan raised at the time of its creation in 1947.

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