LAHORE, PAKISTAN - MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS JOIN HANDS
The gathering outside the Lahore church. PHOTO: MALIK SHAFIQ
The Muslim and Christian communities came together during Sunday mass in a show of solidarity in Lahore.
Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside the St Anthony's Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country's deadliest attack on Christians.
Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony's Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, 'One Nation, One Blood'.
As part of an attempt to sensitize the public at large, the human chain was the second such event after a similar had been organized in Karachi last week outside the St Patrick's Cathedral by an organization called Pakistan For All – a collective of citizens concerned about the growing attacks on minorities.
Flying in from Karachi for the human chain, Nasir and his group are out to advocate the need for interfaith harmony. "I see no reason why our politicians and our leaders should not come out of their houses, leave the luxury of their secure homes and stand in solidarity with the common man", he said.
As the service concluded inside the church, the courtyard echoed with slogans of 'Dehshut gardee murdabaad' and 'Muslim Maseehi ittehad zindabaad' as members of the Sunday service emerged.
Led by Taimur Rahman, activist and member of the music band Laal, the congregation in the courtyard proceeded with sermons and chanting as the crowd increased in number.
Later, the congregation moved onto the street where they chanted slogans and formed the human chain, as police cordoned off the roads leading to the church to allow for the congregation to move.
Mariam Tariq who was attending the service along with her daughter also joined the chain. "We have lost so many of our loved ones over the past few years" said Tariq as she broke into tears.