LAHORE – History was made when one of Lahore’s churches not only opened its doors for Muslims to break their fast at the church but also organised a prayer session and Iftari for Muslims and the church leaders fasted alongside Muslims to promote interfaith harmony.

In the wake of Umerkot incident where a Christian sanitary worker was left to die for being ‘impure’, Pakistan for All’s (PFA) Sanitary Workers Union of Pakistan Christian community, hosted an Iftar dinner in a response to the Umerkot incident.

Earlier this month, a sanitary worker who fell unconscious while cleaning a drain lost his life after doctors at Civil Hospital Umerkot refused to treat him until his body was washed.

All four workers were rushed to Civil Hospital Umerkot, where doctors told the patient’s attendants to wash his body before they would begin treatment.

Speaking to Daily Pakistan, Pastor Hidayat Assi said that it was a matter of pride for him that the church had organised an interfaith Iftar dinner and invited Muslims to break their fast in the expression of harmony even after the Umerkot incident. He said: “The true message and essence of Ramazan is this.”

“In the name of our brother Irfan Massih, we call on all faiths in our motherland to come together as one humanity,” said pastor Assi.

“We are one humanity created by God in this beloved motherland. Our religions teach us to love. Let us then come together. Ramzan stands for peace and love.”
“This is the Pakistan that the Sanitary Workers Union believes in. This is the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. We still hold in our hearts the promise of our founder that Pakistan is for All.”

The pastor said the Quran recognises the principle of inclusiveness and unity when it says: ” “Ya aiyuhal Nas” (O Humankind) directly 306 times and indirectly more than two thousand times in its over 6,000 verses.”

Before sunset, the pastor spoke about the importance and reason for holding such Iftar. He said what took place in Umerkot couldn’t shatter the firm faith and conviction of the community that tolerance and pluralism are the ideal that they have to attain.

Prayers were also made for the soul of Irfan Masih, a worker who died in Umerkot.

“We, the gutter cleaners, will teach the people the real meaning and message of Ramzan that seeks to clean all evil from your character and makes you a better person,” said one of the sanitary workers, adding had the doctor been really aware of the Ramazan fasting, he would have followed the Quranic verse which likens the death of an individual to the death of whole humanity.

The doctors union was also present and participated in the event to give out a loud message.

“The Iftar dinner aimed to bring Christian and Muslim communities together to celebrate Ramazan and share our common values,” said a doctor. She said fasting with these people had been a great experience for her and it just made her realise the sacrifice that goes into fasting around 16 hours a day.”

Representatives of Pakistan For All, who organised the Iftar said that instead of extravagant Ramazan game shows, or inviting clerics for conventional futile sermons, the interfaith Iftar sought to materialise the real message of Ramazan and invited the Doctors Union for the purpose.

Stressing the need for such Iftar dinners, the bishop said it was for the first time that interfaith Iftar has taken place. “This is what Jinnah’s Pakistan would be like, where no one is inferior or superior on the basis of religion, caste or creed,” the pastor added.

He said his community takes pride in teaching the real message of the holy month because “what happened with the sanitary worker in Umerkot didn’t reflect the true message of Islam and Jinnah’s Pakistan.”