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'Pakistan's Christians are champions of mercy'
"We give thanks for the prayers and help of so many who have reminded us that we in Pakistan are not alone."
With 450,000 Catholics, the Archdiocese of Lahore, Pakistan is the largest See in the country. It is headed by a Franciscan Friar, Archbishop Francis Shaw of Lahore. That city was the site of suicide bomber’s attack last Easter that killed 78 and wounded more than 300 people—the majority of them Christians. The archbishop recently spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
By Josué Villalón
What is the present
situation in Lahore
It appears to be a little better. Security at our religious celebrations has been improved People are cheerful and motivated. But at the same time people were a little frightened because, as happened last Easter, we know that we could well be attacked during the Christmas season.
What is the importance of the Christians of Pakistan for the Church and for the rest of the world?
We are a very tiny minority—just 2 percent out of 190 million people—yet our Church is very much alive. Most Christians are very poor, but we are very rich in faith. The faithful are really interested in the Word of God and there are very committed lay catechists, who are helping young people and married couples to live their faith with fervor.
The Year of Mercy was a very special time. The Christians of Pakistan are champions of mercy. One day, after Mass, a couple told me that my homily on mercy and pardon had helped them greatly; they had lost a son in the attack in the Gulsan Iqbal Park on Easter Sunday 2016—but they had forgiven the suicide bomber
What is your assessment of the year 2016 which is now coming to an end?
The terrorist attack was a tragedy, but the people are getting back on their feet. The Year of Mercy has been a great blessing for the whole Church and especially for the Church in Pakistan. We celebrated many encounters of dialogue between the religions. We give thanks to the Pope for this Year of Mercy, and for the prayers and help of so many who have reminded us that we in Pakistan are not alone.
How are the relations with faiths?
Interfaith dialogue is very important, especially with Islam. I’m very proud of the good relations we have with the leaders of other religions. We celebrate each other’s major feasts. But in order for there to be genuine dialogue it is important that our young people are well instructed in the Word of God. It is also important that there is unity among Christians. It is important to teach the Bible to the young people—not so that they know it by heart, but that they put its teachings into practice through love of neighbor.
What are the principal needs of the Church in Pakistan?
Education is very important to us. We especially want to make it possible for young Christians to go to college, which is difficult, because it’s expensive and many of our families are very poor. We also need to rebuild and repair churches and mission stations. We need to renovate our seminary. We have many vocations!
Pakistani Catholic children; ACN photo