Sunday, 10 November 2013

Pakistan - The fruit of the spirit of Assisi and of the testimony of Shahbaz Bhatti

The visit to Pakistan of the president of the Community of Saint’Egidio, was characterized by both fraternity and dialogue. The visit was not only a meeting with the Pakistani families of Saint’Egidio, but also a friendly and deep exchange of views with the religious representatives of a diverse society, with a large majority of Muslims, certainly, but which also comprises substantial minorities, including Christians and others.
Contrary to what might seem to be the case to a superficial observer Pakistan is a complex country, in which the extremist movements that are undeniably present are opposed by an Islam that has been accustomed through the centuries to coexist with the Other. The Indian subcontinent is an immense intersection of cultures and ideas in which tolerance, the positive relationship among different people, the shared yearning for the Absolute, prove often stronger than the temptation to move apart, to become adversaries.
This has become even more true over the last few years. Pakistan is maybe one of the countries in which the spirit of Assisi and the patient work of the Community has produced more fruits. It is also the country in which the testimony of Shahbaz Bhatti, to the point of sacrificing his own life, has created openings that were once unimaginable in the most
conscious and spiritual Islam.
The delegation of the Community was welcome by Imam Abdul Kabir Azad, the leader of the oldest mosque of the Punjab. Azad, who for years has taken part in the Prayer for Peace meetings organized by Saint’Egidio, sponsored an important interreligious initiative that saw the participation, of the Community, the Catholic Bishop, the Anglican one, representatives of various Islamic movements, both Sunni and Shia, as well as Sikhs and Hindus. In Islamabad, near the Faisal Mosque, pursuant to the invitation of the local Islamic community, Marco Impagliazzo held a conference on the topic: “Dialogue among religions and peace”, which was attended by many Islamic scholars.
Not everything is easy of course. Pakistani Christians still experience enormous problems, and violence tempts and poisons the souls. But the testimony of men of peace, engaged in dialogue with their Muslim brothers, really touches peoples’ hearts and opens new horizons.
Indeed, Bhatti’s dream is closer to becoming reality, the dream of a Pakistan without discrimination, where believers from all religions may enjoy equal rights and equal opportunities for the advancement of their own country. Indeed, as his brother Paul stated in Rome at Pentecost, in the presence of Pope Francis, “the life and faith of Shahbaz produced a fruit. His faith has overcome the mountains of division that are so high in my country. He sowed a love that is higher than those mountains.” And slowly, we begin to see the harvest.

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