Maryam Nawaz is following in her father’s footsteps following his disqualification by the Supreme Court. She urges Catholics to support her in the extraordinary elections of September 17th. Bishop Shah prays for her sick mother and blesses her, sparking demands his resignation. "Christian leaders struggle to keep religion divided from the state."
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Catholics in Lahore are in uproar after Archbishop Mgr. Sebastian Shaw allowed the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to hold an electoral rally in the Sacred Heart Cathedral. In the sacred place, Maryam Nawaz - already designated as her father's heir – rallied for her party (the Pakistan Muslim League), defending her father (who was banned from involvement in politics by the Supreme Court), and attacked the opposition. Hence the indignant reaction of the faithful, who on social networks have begun to criticize and demand the resignation of the bishop.
AsiaNews has repeatedly tried to contact Msgr. Shaw, but he was unreachable for comment. On the other hand, the cathedral authorities replied on social media: "She [Maryam] knocked on the door of the church and we opened it. The Church is for everyone. " For his part, Fr. Francis Gulzar, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews that "the visit was organized because Nawaz asked us to pray for the healing of her mother. Her father attended the school right next to the cathedral. There was no political goal. "
Maryam Nawaz is campaigning in the extraordinary election coming of September 17, and to defend her father. Her delegation arrived in the cathedral accompanied by exceptional security measures. For the occasion, all the roads had been closed to transit, at a crucial time for the Catholic community. Indeed these days the faithful are coming to church for the novena devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The woman was accompanied by some Christian ministers, including Kamran Michael, Federal Minister for Statistics, and Khalil Tahir Sindhu, Provincial Minister for Minority Affairs and Human Rights. Upon arrival, the rector of the cathedral Fr. Jahanzeb Iqbal offered her a bunch of flowers, then all the dignitaries sat in front of the altar.
When Nawaz took to the floor barefoot, the faithful were stunned. "I am referring to Nawaz Sharif [indicted for corruption in the Panama Papers case, ndr] - she said. The judicial system has to change. I ask for your support. Turn out for Pakistan and vote for the country's progress. Support Democracy and Nawaz Sharif. " She then attacked political rivals, including former star of cricket Imran Khan and former general dictator Pervez Musharraf.
Christians complain that instead of preventing the campaign, Mgr. Shaw lent supportive words. At first he prayed for her mother, hospitalized in London for treatment for throat cancer, then blessed Maryam. "God gives you respect and support - he said - God gives respect and success. Your election will change the fate of our country. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) [a development plan that is part of China's One Belt strategy] will boost the economy and spread the road network even further. "
The reaction of the faithful was immediate. Yousaf Benjamin, executive director of Dignity First, wrote on Facebook: "Today, the Christian community's religious feelings have been wounded by Archbishop Shaw, who allowed the cathedral to host a political event. We ask for his public apologies for his negligence and that he immediately resigns from the religious assignment. " The same opinion is also expressed by Basharat Masih, former staff member of the National Justice and Peace Commission, who says: "The Church must distance itself from this situation of political instability, conflicts and tensions between the various state organs. Kamran Michael and other [Christian leaders] should not involve the Church in politics. Christian leaders struggle for a complete separation of the state from religion. Why this change of route? It is shocking and must be condemned. "
Khalid Shehzad, a former seminarist and social activist, calls on "the bishop to clarify his position. Now the various political parties are planning to bring their exponents into the cathedral. If that were the case, there could be clashes and the bishop would be responsible for it. The Church can not take the side of a single party."