Thank God it’s Friday had a true religious meaning yesterday. The Christian community in the twin cities celebrated Good Friday with religious zeal, while a lucky few were able to meet with Professor Gianfranco Basti, Dean of Philosophy at the Vatican University. The professor was in the capital to attend a lunch to mark the occasion held by Religious Harmony Minister Dr Paul Bhatti at a local hotel.
Special three-hour prayers were held in all the churches in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Ashfaq and Lieutenant Nadeem of the Salvation Army Church in Islamabad explained the importance of Good Friday, saying “Jesus Christ was crucified at 9:00am on Friday morning. He sacrificed his life for us, therefore we celebrate on the day of his crucifixion instead of mourning on it”.
“Good Friday is also our last fasting day,” said Paster Ashfaq, adding that “because Jesus died at 3:00 pm, we hold prayers from noon to 3:00 pm”.
He said that during the time of his crucifixion, Jesus made seven points which are recalled in the prayers before singing carols with prayers for the community and the country.
After the prayers finish, he said, many will break their fasts, but some still fast till 7:00pm. “It is not a religious obligation to break the fast after prayers, but rather a personal choice,” he added.
Moreover, Lieutenant Nadeem said that the majority of Christians attend Good Friday prayers, even those who usually miss Sunday prayers.
Italian scholars for promoting interfaith harmony
Speaking at the lunch, Professor Basti called for the promotion of inter-religion and intercultural harmony through dialogue. “This can be done by exploring and promoting common values, education, and creating a just world,” he said.
Professor Basti was of the view that we can end conflicts between various civilisations, cultures and religions by imparting the younger generation with scientific education.
The philosophy professor added, “When we talk about inter-religious harmony, it means we talk about a society based on economic and social equality, peace and justice.”
Italian Ambassador Vincenzo Prati, Professor Mobeen Shahid, president of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance Italy chapter, Dr Paolo Affatato and representatives from Christian community were also at the event.
The Italian delegation is currently on a visit to Pakistan to express solidarity with Dr Bhatti and to promote interfaith dialogue in a bid to bring peace, prosperity and economic uplift in the Pakistani society.
Professor Mubeen appreciated the efforts of the government for improving the condition of religious minorities and extended his cooperation to the minister in this regard.
He recalled the services of the slain federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti for the rights of minorities and vowed to continue Bhatti’s mission.
Speaking at the lunch, Paul Bhatti regretted that there are misperceptions in the world about Pakistan which need to be allayed by working together with civil society and political leadership.
Additional reporting by Qaiser Zulfiqar
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2012.
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