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Pakistani lawmaker asks pope to help end conflict with India

LAHORE (UCAN): Pope Francis was asked by Sunila Ruth, a Christian member National Assembly of Pakistan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, to “actively support and call upon the Indian government” to join dialogue efforts to help end the conflict between the nuclear-armed nations.
“As a member of national parliament, representing the Christian community of Pakistan, I appeal to Your Holiness to actively support and call upon the India government to effectively back the call of dialogue and negotiation, as stated by the prime minister of Pakistan,” Ruth wrote in a letter sent to the pope on March 1.
“I sincerely believe that the international Christian Churches can play an effective role in convincing India to come back (to the) peace table which is imperative to break the chains of hatred and mistrust which has prevailed for decades,” she wrote.
Ruth sent similar letters to other international religious leaders including Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Archbishop Antje Jackelen of the Church of Sweden, and Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia.
The escalation of the crisis came after 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed in India-controlled Kashmir in a February 14 suicide attack that was claimed by Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad). This led both countries to conduct airstrikes on each other’s territory in late February, and the capture of Wing Commander Abhi Nandan of the Indian Air Force, whose plane was shot down on February 27.
The release of the pilot by Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, on March 1 has helped reduce tensions. 
An estimated 100,000 people have died, including civilians, militants and army personnel, after Muslim militants began an armed struggle in 1990 to free the region from Indian rule.
The conflict dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan became separate states after British rule ended. Both countries claim Kashmir in full and have fought at least three major wars and regularly exchange artillery and small-weapons fire across a disputed border.
“Kindly keep the political leaders in your prayers, for God’s wisdom and courage upon them to struggle in hope for peace and reconciliation. May the peace of our Lord be upon both countries,” Ruth concluded.
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, speaking at an interfaith press conference at the Lahore Press Club on February 28, said, “All issues must be resolved through peace talks and dialogue. War is not an option.” 

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