In Pakistan, a priest and an imam at the service of peace

The Dominican James Channan and the Imam of the Lahore Mosque are two great figures of interreligious dialogue in the country. Meet.

To contemplate the great royal mosque of Lahore deserted, once night has fallen and the great gateway closed, is a privilege. During the day, thousands of visitors marched on this esplanade of 276,000 m2, the largest mosque courtyard in the world. During the Friday prayer, between 10,000 and 15,000 faithful come to kneel in the huge pink carved stone hall surmounted by three marble domes dating from the Mughal Empire. On feast days, they are up to 200,000 to hurry on the esplanade, covered in summer with large white drapes. For three centuries, this mosque was the lighthouse of the Muslim world, the largest after Mecca. Recently detained by four others, including Islamabad, it remains a high place of practice and teaching of Islam in Pakistan.

Like his father before him, Imam Maulana Syed Abdul Qadir Azad has been at the head of this prestigious institution for 22 years. He has also inherited his sense of interreligious dialogue. "My father was one of the initiators of the movement for the harmony between the religions in Pakistan, explains this man with the beard provided and the smiling face. I have dedicated my life to promoting peace. " With him in this improbable night tour is James Channan, great promoter, Catholic side of interreligious dialogue.

Christians are often persecuted in this country, but many Muslims are on our side.
- James Channan, Dominican

The Pakistani Dominican opened in 2010 the Peace Center, a place dedicated to the meeting. "Christians are often persecuted in this country, but many Muslims are on our side," he says. Our survival lies in this dialogue: as a minority, we can not isolate ourselves! We are small, but have a role to play, that of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. " Even if it regrets that the issue of the blasphemy law or that of freedom of conversion remains almost taboo subjects, it welcomes the progress in the dialogue, saying that today there 200 groups dedicated.

The Great Royal Mosque of Lahore.

The Dominican and the Imam, who have known each other for years, travel around the world to testify that this dialogue is possible in Pakistan. Their friendship is the bright side, far from images of hate mullahs leading demonstrations and holding placards starring Christian Asia Bibi with a rope around his neck. "In our country, there is unfortunately a fringe of the population with a limited mind , deplores the imam. The danger comes from these radicals. I have been threatened more than once for my work for harmony. But it makes me want to do more! " 

n a country where religion is a sensitive subject, he invited Father James Channan to speak to the faithful during a Friday prayer and he regularly goes to interreligious meetings, such as this December 18, on the occasion of Christmas . It offers students of madrasas in charge of programs developed by the Peace Center.

In our country, unfortunately, there is a segment of the population with a limited mind. The danger comes from these radicals.
- Maulana Syed Abdul Qadir Azad, Imam

At each attack on Christian neighborhoods, he publicly condemns the violence carried out in the name of the Prophet's defense. "It's not because these people claim that they are the true believers that they are. On the contrary, those who kill and regularly block the country go against the teaching of Islam. " He also made sign to 18,000 imams, clerics and Muslim clerics a manifesto entitled the Message of Pakistan, in which issues fatwa against suicide attacks, declared contrary to the Koran.

Defender of the action of the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan, the imam welcomes the firmness of the authorities against the Islamists who questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and called for an army mutiny after the liberation from Asia Bibi. "But there are probably people who do not want our country to be at peace ," he says, implying that outside actors would spur radical parties. But really, we can not afford a new war ... " In the silence of the night, on the large esplanade, it is these two men and their will for peace that we want to believe.

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Peace Center is very important institution which is playing a significant role in spite of all the difficulties we are confronted with. A couple of Dominican Friars are active in Christian- Muslim dialogue and they are well known both nationally and internationally for promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue. It is top priority of the Dominican Order in the world and in Pakistan as well.
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