The Sikh community in Peshawar has continued its goodwill gesture of serving food among fasting Muslims during the holy month of Ramzan with the objective of promoting love, fraternity, respect, and honor among people of different faiths.
Every year, the Sikh community living in different parts of the country, including Peshawar, organizes Iftari (serving of food for breaking fast) and food distribution among fasting Muslims with the aim of reflecting the sentiments of reverence they had for the holy month of Ramzan.
As the fasting month of Ramzan begins, Sikh residents in Peshawar come out to arrange Iftar dinners, announcing special discounts on their shops for fasting Muslims while also helping the poor fasting faithful by providing them edible goods at their doorsteps.
For ordinary citizens, the gathering of turban-wearing Sikhs around long plastic mats spread to serve food for fasting Muslims at places like the Bolton Block of Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar becomes very strange and incomprehensible, leaving them in a state of bafflement.
Many faithful are found sharing their feeling of bewilderment over seeing Sikh youth standing in front of their doors for the distribution of food items to break fast.
“This year, within four days of Ramzan, we have distributed food items among 100 deserving Muslim families for providing them ease in fulfilling their religious obligation”, informs Jatinder Singh, Chairman of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter of the National Peace Council for Interfaith Harmony.
We have not started holding Iftari, for which we are looking for volunteers, and will start as soon as arrangements are made, Jatinder told.
Each of the ration packs consists of essential items including cooking oil, rice, pulses, chickpeas, beans, sugar, and tea, he added.
The price of ration has almost doubled this year from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 7500 because of inflation in the country. He said donations are coming from people of diverse faiths, and soon the second phase of food ration distribution will begin.
We used to make arrangements for serving a big Iftari for fasting Muslims, but the coronavirus pandemic affected the practice.
Last year, only on Fridays, iftars were arranged in different areas of the city due to the shortage of volunteers, Jatinder added.
Apart from organizing Iftari, Jatinder informed, “we are also focusing on providing edible goods to fasting Muslims at their doorsteps.”
Being a dweller for generations, we know who is in need of financial support in our locality, so we extend them help.
The objective behind this practice by Sikhs is to promote love, fraternity, respect, and honor among people of different faiths, said Jatinder Singh, adding that we had lived in this country for generations and wanted to convey the message of mutual coexistence among its citizens.
Jatinder said our Muslim neighbors and friends also mark respect for Sikh holy occasions by extending good wishes.
Similarly, both Muslims and Sikhs attend occasions of happiness and bereavement from both sides to maintain the bond of unity, neighbourhood, and humanity.
The measures taken by the Sikh community of Peshawar are receiving commendations from people from all walks of life, and social media users are displaying these news items as examples of the beauty of Pakistan, where people of different religions are living in harmony and showing respect for each other.
Bilal Ahmad, a graduate from Peshawar who serves as a volunteer in an iftar dinner arranged by Sikhs, said he shared these pictures on social media with a sense of pride at how people of different faiths are living in harmony in our country.
“In each Ramzan, I spare time and participate in such iftar dinners to acknowledge the good initiative taken by Sikh community members in promoting respect and love in society by serving fasting Muslims,” opines Ahmad Khan, a young dweller of Peshawar.
“This is a very well-coming gesture from the Sikh community and is promoting the spirit of interfaith harmony,” comments Prof. Abdul Ghafoor, a noted religious scholar, former director of the Sheikh Zahid Islamic Centre, and member of Central Reut-e-Hilal Committee.
He added said such practices are winning the hearts of Muslims and surely will help in achieving the goal of mutual coexistence.