Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

Al Khidmat Foundation volunteers disinfect a temple in Karachi on March 31, 2020. (Photo courtesy: @JIPOfficial/Twitter)
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Updated 31 March 2020

Pakistani religious party’s volunteers disinfect temples and churches

  • Jamaat-e-Islami volunteers provide food and other necessities to Muslims and non-Muslims in need alike, party chief says
  • Religious minority leaders say the step will help promote interfaith harmony in the country

LAHORE: Promoting interfaith harmony during coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s religio-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has set out on a disinfection campaign for mosques, churches, and temples alike in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The initiative taken by the party’s social welfare wing, Al Khidmat Foundation, has been greatly lauded the country’s minority communities.
“Al Khidmat Foundation has been instructed by the party leadership to provide food to the needy in these testing times and participate in the movement of disinfecting worship places belonging to all religions along with other public areas,” JI’s information secretary, Qaisar Sharif, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“In Karachi and Peshawar, Al Khidmat volunteers have helped seven churches, five temples and two [Sikh] gurdwaras,” he added.
Sharif said the party’s top leadership opined that no one was safe since COVID-19 had engulfed the entire world.
“The JI has directed its volunteers to provide cooked food, rations and other items of necessity to those in need. The service is for the people of all faiths, not just Muslims. We believe in one God who is the Master of the universe. Our Prophet was a mercy to the humankind, not just to Muslims alone. As his followers, it is our responsibility to serve all humans without making any discrimination,” Sirajul Haq, the JI chief, told Arab News.
“Serving the mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras is a practical step toward religious harmony,” he continued. “We are trying to show the world that Islam is not a religion of extremism but teaches its followers that all humans are equal.”
The religious leaders of different faiths welcomed the step, saying it would lead to a more pluralistic society.
“It is a positive development that will pave the way for religious harmony in Pakistan,” Pastor Shahid Meraj, Dean of Lahore Cathedral, told Arab News. “There is always an initiative to begin, and this act will help start dialogue among religions.”
“We are thankful to the JI leadership for this gesture,” he added. “They helped us today and we have assured to help them whenever needed.”
Leaders of the Hindu community also appreciated the gesture, saying it would bring people of different religions closer together.
“At a time when the whole world is suffering due to an unseen virus, this act of disinfecting our temples is a good omen,” Pandat Bhagat Lal Khokhar, custodian of Lahore’s Valmik Mandar, told Arab News. “It will have a far reaching and positive impact on our society since it will bring Hindus and Muslims closer together.”
President of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh echoed the same sentiment as well.
“This positive gesture will further strengthen the Sikh-Muslim brotherhood,” he noted. “It is important to have interfaith harmony in the country and such steps are extremely fruitful for that purpose.”
Rights activists also appreciated the JI initiative.
“Huge respect for Al-Khidmat, welfare wing of @JIPOfficial, for doing disinfectant spray in Mandir and Church. Lead by example of peaceful coexistence, interfaith harmony and pluralism,” Kapil Dev, a Hindu activist from Sindh, said in a Twitter post.

Queen Elizabeth honors two Pakistani friends with ‘Points of Light Award’

Updated 18 min 42 sec ago

Queen Elizabeth honors two Pakistani friends with ‘Points of Light Award’

  • Recognizes voluntary efforts made by their social enterprise for a “hunger-free Pakistan“
  • Rizq includes a network of over 3,000 volunteers who distribute free meals to the needy

ISLAMABAD: UK’s Queen Elizabeth II has honored two Pakistani friends with the Commonwealth Points of Light Award, for their efforts to provide free meals to local communities during the coronavirus outbreak in the country, a statement released by the British High Commission in Islamabad said on Saturday.

In this undated photo, volunteers from a Pakistan-based social enterprise, Rizq, get ready to distribute free meals on their motorbikes. (Photo courtesy: British High Commission in Islamabad)

“The award to Huzaifa Ahmed and Syed Hassaan Irfan recognized their work for providing food security to local communities, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” excerpts from the statement read, sharing details of a phone call between British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner and the Queen.
It added that during the coronavirus pandemic in Ramadan, they “mobilized a network of over 3,000 volunteers to distribute over 2.2 million meals across 23 cities.”
Rizq (sustenance) was launched in Pakistan, in 2015, as part of Ahmed and Irfan’s university project to ensure a “hunger-free Pakistan” by distributing “excess food to the most vulnerable.”
Humbled by the recognition of their efforts, Ahmed, who is the co-founder and CEO of Rizq, said he wanted to dedicate the award “to our amazing volunteers and heroes.”

Volunteers from a Pakistan-based social enterprise, Rizq, distributed more than 2.2 million meals across 23 cities during Ramadan, to facilitate people dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in the country. (Photo courtesy: British High Commission in Islamabad)

“Food is a fundamental need. For every human to reach his or her true potential, it is important for this basic right to be accessible, affordable and available. I want to thank the Commonwealth for recognizing our efforts and honoring us with this award,” he said.
Irfan, for his part, said that the award was a tribute to “the people of Pakistan, the work of volunteers in Pakistan, and “our strong tradition of helping each other.”
“We have more food than ever before yet more people than ever go hungry every day. We all have an individual responsibility to eliminate hunger – no one should go without a daily meal,” Irfan, Executive Director, Rizq, added.
With its head office in Lahore, Rizq’s “Hunger-Free Pakistan” initiative is facilitated by several notable organizations and charitable foundations.
According to details shared by the organization on its website, Rizq also distributes food rations and lunch boxes for needy school children and runs a campaign against food wastage.
Dr. Turner said it was an “honor to hear Her Majesty recognize Rizq’s remarkable work to tackle food insecurity.” 
“Moments like this are examples of the profoundly positive relations between the UK, Pakistan and Commonwealth,” she said, adding that the phone call also marked the National Volunteering Week in the UK – an annual event to celebrate the “power and contribution of volunteering.”
Launched in April 2018, to coincide with the UK hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in London, the Commonwealth Points of Light award recognizes outstanding individual volunteers for making a difference in their communities.