Imam and Catholic priest work together to build peace between faiths

A Grand Imam and a Catholic priest have joined forces in Pakistan to help protect the country's Christian minority from persecution. 

Imam Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore and Father James Channan, a Dominican priest, have gained a reputation for working jointly in the aftermath of bombings and other attacks to show unity and demonstrate mainstream Muslim opposition to terror.

Both work for the Peace Centre in Lahore, Father Channan as director and Imam Azad as a board member.

Aid to the Church in Need describes in a news report how the priest and imam act swiftly when violence breaks out, such as when suicide bombers targeted a Catholic and Protestant church in Youhanabad, Lahore earlier this year, with the deaths of 22 Christians and Muslims and injuries to another 70.

Women from the Christian community mourn for their relatives, who were killed by a suicide attack on a church, during their funeral in Lahore, March 17, 2015.Reuters

Imam Azad organised a march in front of his mosque to protest for peace and harmony. He has in the past run an interfaith conference inside the mosque, when Christians were invited to speak for the first time. According to Imam Azad, security forces in Pakistan have successfully eliminated 80 per cent of terrorists, although problems remain around areas such as the country's blasphemy laws.

Both Father Channan and Imam Azad told Aid to the Church in Need that they utterly condemned the burning alive in a brick kiln of Shamah, a pregnant woman of 24, and her husband Shahzad when they were accused of desecrating the Koran. 

Imam Azad, who is inspired by the image of Jesus as Prince of Peace, said: "I have received threats from the work that I am doing, but I am not going to give up. It is the need of the hour, and it is my mission." 

Father Channon said interreligious dialogue has a civic role to play in finding common ground to build a better society. This can bring about a "conversion of heart" where Muslims recognise Christians as worthy citizens.