At the Solemn High Mass at 11.00am this Sunday, there will be an appeal on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need. The appeal will be preached by His Grace Sebastian Shaw, O.F.M., Archbishop of Lahore in Pakistan.
A series of anti-Christian atrocities climaxed on 27th March 2016 when Christians celebrating Easter Day were targeted in a suicide bomb blast at Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park. 72 people (including 29 children) were killed and 340 others were injured.
A Franciscan friar, Archbishop Shaw’s pastoral focus on peace and justice is critical if his people are to survive intimidation, oppression and violence.
Born in Padri Jo Goth, a village in Sindh Province, Pakistan, on 14th November 1957, Sebastian Shaw was professed as a member of the Order of the Friars Minor (Franciscans) on 2nd August 1989. He completed his studies at the Seminary of Christ the King, Karachi. Ordained priest on 6th November 1991, he became Auxiliary Bishop of Lahore on 14th February 2009. He succeeded the Most Rev Lawrence John Saldanha as Archbishop of Lahore and was appointed to head the diocese on 14th November 2013.
Comprising a Catholic community of about 500,000 people, more than any other of Pakistan’s six dioceses, the Archdiocese of Lahore’s faithful nonetheless make up less than two percent of the total population.
Their minority status – coupled with their comparative poverty – puts Christians and others in the region at direct risk of intimidation and oppression in a country where the rule of law often does not apply.
This threat is magnified by a fundamental shift towards Islamism made popular through a growing network of madrassas (Islamic seminaries or schools), many infiltrated by extremist groups.
Archbishop Shaw has been a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue since October 2013, a dicastery of the Roman Curia in charge of promoting mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of other religious traditions.
In an interview given to ACN shortly before his installation as Archbishop, he emphasised the need for inter-faith cooperation and ecumenical dialogue: “What we need to learn is to respect one another – to realise that we are all Pakistanis, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Hindus.”
Within hours of the Easter Day 2016 suicide blast in Gushan-i-Iqbal Park, Archbishop Shaw went to the hospitals in Lahore where the injured were being tended. Soon after, he told ACN: “I visited every bedside and every victim, of whatever faith... To my own faithful, I said that they must not give up hope because, even though we were going through a period of grave difficulties, we have to learn to rise up again, just as Christ was able to raise himself again, despite carrying the cross.”