17th January 2017 - "It is not far off when Pakistan will be recognized as a friendly country of minorities; the government is taking measures to improve the lives of religious minority groups": said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his participation at the inauguration of the Hindu Kata Raj temple in Chakwal in Punjab, after its restoration. The reopening of the 900 year old structure was the symbolic opportunity to launch an appeal for the respect of religious minorities in the country.
The government of Pakistan, assured Sharif, promotes the belief that everyone should have the right to profess one's faith, adding that "it is the common humanity to keep the country together". Believers of all religions, he added "should have equal rights in Pakistan", and the contribution they offered "to create and defend the country" should be recognized. Sharif referred to the history of Islam stressing that respect for minorities is part of the Islamic faith. The Prime Minister said he had urged government officials to spare no effort to accommodating non-Muslim pilgrims in Pakistan. As stated in the Qur'an, said Sharif, "God is the God of everyone, not just Muslims", and this is why "any distinction on the basis of caste, race or faith" should not exist because "we are all human beings". "I myself am the Prime Minister of all Pakistanis, and not only of Pakistani Muslims", he added.
Hindu and Christian representatives in Pakistan, the main religious minorities in the country, expressed their appreciation for the words of the Prime Minister. Christian Nasir Saeed, Director of the NGO "Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement" (CLAAS) remarked to Fides that these words "will definitely help promote harmony and peace in the country".
Fr. James Channan, Dominican Director of "Peace Center" in Lahore, engaged in interfaith dialogue, on welcoming Sharif’s statements, recalled a symbolic initiative, promoted by the government in the last days: "During the Christmas period a special train-museum dedicated to Christians visited the major cities of Pakistan, which brought to light the contributions of minorities in Pakistan's history. Many political and religious leaders and many ordinary people, of all religions, visited it. It was an important gesture to build harmony and we must thank in particular the efforts of the Christian federal minister, Kamran Michael. The government wanted to give a message of unity to the country and the recognition of religious minorities. Pakistani Christians have contributed a lot in the field of education, health and the armed forces. The train also hosted a special tribute to two personalities: Catholic minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Captain Cecil Chaudhry". (PA) (Agencia Fides 17/01/2017)