2017-08-21 14:13:00

Lahore: Playing cricket to build harmony between religions

The Pakistan Peace League (PPL), final was held in Lahore on Aug 20 to build harmony between religions.  The tournament was won by the team of St. Francis Church in Lahore, headed by a Muslim student.

Playing cricket to build harmony between religions. This is the goal of the Pakistani Peace League (PPL), a tournament which engages eight teams composed of 11 members each, all of different faiths.  St. Francis Church team which won the tournament, also won the first prize of 10,000 rupees (about 80 euros). Muhammad Saqib, a Muslim student, who for the first time played with young Christians led his comrades to victory. Speaking to AsiaNews he says he has never supported a competition with other Christian players not because he is against Christianity, but because he never met them in cricket groups. “Our victory, was a team win. I appreciated the public's support and cannot wait to meet my comrades again" he said.  "I do know nothing about St. Francis," he says, "but I have made so many new friends. I will visit the church at some stage. And my comrades are welcome to the mosque."

The Pakistan Peace League is sponsored by various human rights organizations, including the United Nations.  Alyas Rehmat, operational director of Community Healthy Advocacy Network at Nation (Chanan), sponsor of the event , States: "We believe that sport is more important than organizing seminars and marches on interreligious harmony. Our young people love cricket and passion can lead to team spirit, which strengthens ties. Moreover, the cricket game attracts Christians, who are generally not given opportunities in our Islamic country."

The director mentions the example of Yousaf Youhanna, the only non-Muslim captain to get a place in the national team, who then converted from Christianity to Islam. Likewise, Danish Kaneria, of the Hindu religion: he was the second player to be admitted onto the team, but he has been banned from it since 2012. "Kaneria was caught up in politics - says Rehmat - the religion of the majority dominates all spheres, including sport. There is really little room for players who profess a different faith. They need great support."

Pakistan's Caritas is also at the forefront of organizing programs that stimulate the creation of a climate of peace. Its sporting competitions usually involve thousands of young people and children from the dioceses of Multan, Lahore and Hyderabad. According to the social arm of the Catholic Church, "sport can be used as a low-cost instrument, but with great impact on humanitarian efforts, development and peace-building."(AsiaNews)

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