Interfaith Christmas Celebration at Peace Center in Pakistan

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Interfaith Christmas Celebration at Peace Center in Pakistan
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Dominican Peace Center in Lahore and URI Pakistan organized Interfaith Christmas Celebration on 21st of December, 2017 in which  over 100   religious leaders, promoters of  interfaith dialogue and peace activists,  men, women and children  from different religions participated. His Grace,  Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore presided over, whereas,  Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad,  Grand Imam,  Badshahi Mosque, Lahore was the Chief Guest. Many honorable guests were also invited including, Fr. Pascal Paulus OP,  Prior Vice-Provincial, Dominican Vice Province,  Allama Muhammad Zubair Abid. Chairman Peace and Harmony Network Pakistan, Sohail Ahmad Raza, Director,  Minhaj-ul Quran International, Ms. Asifa, President Aman Pukar and Hafiz Muhammad Nauman Hamid, Executive Director, World Council of Religions.

Fr. Shakeel Michael OP read  a passage on  the nativity of Jesus Christ from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke,  Bro. Irfan Christ  OP  offered prayers.  A Muslim religious leader  Hafiz Muhammad Nauman Hamid recited a passage from the Holy Quran.    All the honorable guests were welcomed by  school children who performed a welcome Christmas  song.

Fr. James Channan OP formally welcomed and thanked all the honorable guests for their cherishing presence in the interfaith Christmas celebration. Ms. Sabina Rifat, Coordinator Women Wing URI Pakistan invited His Excellency Archbishop Sebastian Shaw to give his precious remarks on splendid celebration of Interfaith Christmas. His Grace said “I congratulate  Fr. James Channan OP and his team for organizing this grand interfaith Christmas celebration. I also wish you all a very blessed, happy and joyful Christmas. Mother Mary was the chosen one who became a beautiful reason to let Jesus come into the world because Christ is the Prince of Peace.  He brought message of peace for the  whole world. He came for all the people and preached peace, love, forgiveness and reconciliation.  He gives them bliss and  eternal life. In Pakistan, right now, we are living in a state of fear and  insecure atmosphere since the Quetta terrorist attack on a church. That has  has really pressed my heart and I feel great sorrow for the martyrs and the injured ones. But we have hope of peace as Jesus is the Prince of Peace. This is why I would like to say all that that do not panic rather stay in peace and celebrate Christmas with religious enthusiasm  because we are the preacher of light and  darkness will never prevail on light as per our believe.”

Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, Grand Imam, Badshahi Mosque Lahore,  shared his precious words and wished all Christians a  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018. He highly  appreciated the great efforts of Fr. James Channan for building peace among all religions throughout the world. He said, “ We are celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ. He is the Prince of Peace who  preached  peace all over the world. It gives me great joy to celebrate Christmas along with my Christian brothers and sisters. I strongly condemn the blast in Quetta and we always stand together to condemn the anti-peace and anti-minority elements. Yes, we are fighting and giving message to the enemies of unity. Pakistan  army is doing the fabulous job for saving us. I am very thankful for the deep and profound friendship with Fr. James Channan. He always mentioned me to his friends and at national and international forums that we are jointly working for peace and dialogue among religions.  Recently he was in Finland, France and the Vatican and he shared our joint efforts for building peace and interfaith dialogues. I also highly admire and salute His  Holiness Pope Francis for expressing solidarity with Muslims on the situation of Palestine and for always supporting our cause and comforting us in our crises. Long live Pope Francis! It gives me great to celebrate Christmas with my Christians brothers and sisters and to cut the Christmas Cake as well.”

This followed the cutting of a Christmas Cake and all the respected guests came down from the state  to cut the Christmas cake. Everybody enjoyed and celebrated the auspicious event.  There were beautiful lights, stars, Christmas tree, colors and Santa Clause to share the greetings  of Christmas and distribute gifts and candies all around in the hall. Dominican brothers sung beautiful Christmas carols  which enhanced the spirit of Christmas. 

Fr. Pascal Paulus OP, Vice Provincial of the Vice Province of Pakistan, delivered a short sermon on  Christmas. Hafiz Nauman Hamid, Executive Director, World Council of Religions wished all the Christians and Muslims a very blessed and peaceful Christmas. He also congratulated Fr. James Channan and his team for the wonderful  arrangements on this auspicious and grace filled  event. He said, “I  know that Churches, missionary schools and Christian Colonies are under  threat but we  are with you with whole mind and heat. We are most willing to volunteer our services for the security of the Christian brothers and sisters on the birthday of Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. If needed, I offer and  I am ready to bring 300 to 400 Muslims with me to protect your churches so that you can offer Christmas prayers in peace. Holy Quran  gives us teaching of humanity not terrorism and anti-peace activities. I openly say that terrorists are not Muslims. I would like to request you all to  be united against the agenda of the terrorists to fight back peacefully and in a non-violent way for the sake of humanity. “

Sohail Ahmad Raza Coordinator, Interfaith Relations, Minhaj-ul-Quran International, Mr. Patras Dewan, Director Global Healing, Pakistan, and Allama Zubair Abid, Chairman Peace and Harmony Network Pakistan all expressed their joy and appreciation to Fr James Channan for the celebration. They also condemned the recent terrorist attack on Christians.

Mr. Faisal Ilyas Executive Secretary Peace Center Lahore called few children to play balloons’ game. Honorable guests came and distributed prizes and Christmas gifts to all the children. Santa Claus distributed candies and gifts to the attendees as well. There were joys and smiles everywhere. Children and their parents enjoyed and celebrated Christmas with great excitement and fun. All the audience and honorable guests appreciated the gifting segment.  

Fr. James Channan thanked all the honorable guests from different religions, women and children for the beautiful participation and spiritually uplifting and very impressive celebration of Christmas. He said that we must act upon  the teachings of Jesus Christ who said pray for your enemies and  do not take revenge. Be the peace makers, light of the world and salt of the earth. Christmas reminds us of the great love of God for us in the form of Jesus Christ. He  has given us the message of love, harmony, forgiveness and reconciliation. Let us share this joy with others, especially the poor and deserving people. Terrorists are trying to destroy the people who are working for peaceful atmosphere but we are the light of the world to lighten the darker sides so we will fight with people who are spreading the hate and terror in the world.

He also expressed his deep appreciation for the entire staff of Peace Center and URI Pakistan who had made the grand celebration a success. He extended Christmas and Near 2018 greetings to all.  And prayed for richest blessing upon the whole world, especially Pakistan.

Fr James Channan OP, Director Peace Center, Pakistan

 

(29 December 2017)