I woke up Sunday to some horrific news. Muslims attacked a Church during mass in Youhanabad, a predominantly Christian-populated area of Lahore, Pakistan. 14 Christians were killed and more than 70 were injured.
Both Christianity and Pakistan are close to my heart. I'm a Catholic American of Irish and Italian descent. I'm also a scholar who researches the Pakistani diaspora, a role which has allowed me to form friendships with Pakistanis worldwide.
My Pakistani Muslim friends are peace-loving people. I admire their strong sense of honor and the respect that they show for my Catholic beliefs. The relationship that I have with these Pakistanis makes Sunday's attack even more appalling to me. If I had a chance to talk to those Muslims who attacked Christians in Youhanabad, this is what I would say:
Killing a Christian is killing "People of the Book," which the Qur'an calls both Jews and Christians. Like you, Christians believe in God and prophets and share similar beliefs and values to Muslims. You've basically murdered your own brothers and sisters. That's a true shame.
Your attacks on Christians makes me feel that you have never shared a meal or visited the home of a Christian. Sharing and hospitality are key teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims are supposed to spread these values in remembrance of all that God has given us. Have you forgotten about the importance of sharing and hospitality in Islam? Or were you never aware?
By attacking Christians, you have contradicted one of the most important Qur'anic principles: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256). As Muslims, you are required to tolerate other ideas and ways of life. As Muslims, you are supposed to promote equal rights and be without prejudice. Muhammad set the tone for Muslims, "Whoever hurts a [Jew or Christian], it will be as though [he or she] hurt me personally."
Clearly, you do not adhere to Prophet Muhammad's agreements with Christians in his midst. In a covenant he made with Christian monks at Mount Sinai, Egypt, Muhammad ensured the monks that Christian judges would be protected and churches preserved. The words of the covenant state that Muslims should look to Christians not as sworn enemies, but as their brothers and sisters in the eyes of the Almighty. Do your actions mirror the example set by the Prophet?
Muhammad wanted Muslims to live in a pluralistic society, not a society in which individuals and groups are judged by religion, skin color or cultural background. Islam is not an exclusive religion, as you see it. In fact, Prophet Muhammad revered Christians, considering them to be some of the most just and peaceful citizens of 7th century Arabia. That is because Muhammad had so much respect for Jesus, whom you also consider to be a prophet. If the Prophet Muhammad believed that Jesus was a kindred spirit, how do you think both of them would respond to your senseless act of murder?
Perhaps you're not aware that Christians have reached out to Muslims in the name of peace and goodwill. In 1965, the Pope issued "Nostra Aetate," which stated: "Upon Muslims, too, the Church looks with esteem." The document also revers the one true God. You believe in this God, right?
Pope Francis, too, extends the Christian hand to Muslim brothers and sisters. Francis has recently described the Qur'an as a prophetic book which promotes peace. I find it ironic that a Christian looks at your holy book and thinks "peace," while you, a Muslim, see violence and bloodshed in the sacred Islamic text.
As a Catholic, I do not wish harm on you. In fact, I forgive you because I am a Christian, and forgiveness is what we excel in. I will pray for you.
No sin is too great for God's forgiveness.