The archbishop of Karachi in Pakistan, Cardinal Joseph Coutts, called for peace and understanding as he celebrated his 50th year as a priest on Jan. 9.
The prelate made the call in the wake of reports of rising incidents of attacks on religious minorities in the country.
“We can be different, have different languages, different religions, but we can live together, respecting each other as the bouquet of flowers with different flowers brings a new reality,” he said, reported Asia News.
Addressing a gathering in his honor, the prelate said it is not enough to pray, adding that one must love one’s neighbor as oneself.
The cardinal made the statement as media reports noted that persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan continues in recent months.
Last month, a Hindu temple was vandalized by a mob in Karachi after blasphemy allegations were leveled against a boy from the Hindu community.
In May, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the demolition of houses of people belonging to the Hindu and Christian communities in Punjab province’s Bahawalpur city.
Pakistan has several times claimed that it safeguards the interest of minority communities.
Recalling his early years as a priest, the cardinal said he “never thought of being a bishop.”
“When I had joined the seminary, I had a very simple idea of doing good works,” he said, adding that he was inspired by the work of missionaries who left their families to work in Pakistan.
The cardinal also recalled that when he was appointed bishop of Hyderabad in 1990, he chose “Harmony to live together” as his motto.
In his address, Cardinal Coutts cited the examples of people who worked for peace like Sayed Hakkem, Abdul Sitar Edhi, Dr. Ruth Pfau, and Ruth Louis.
“They are people who have given us an example of how we should respect our humanity,” said the prelate.
“We should all come together to create harmony like a bouquet of flowers … I say we can do something, so let’s work for that. All religions have a fundamental message of humanity,” said the cardinal.
Cardinal Coutts has been archbishop of Karachi since 2012. He was born in Amritsar, British India, on July 21, 1945. He received his religious training at the Christ the King seminary in Karachi and was ordained a priest in Lahore, Pakistan, on Jan. 9, 1971.
After ordination, he completed ecclesiastical studies in Rome from 1973 to 1976 and then became professor of philosophy and sociology at Christ the King Regional Seminary in Karachi, and rector of St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Lahore.
On May 5, 1988, he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Hyderabad in Pakistan by Pope St. John Paul II and consecrated a bishop on Sept. 16 of the same year.
The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany, awarded Bishop Coutts the 2007 Shalom Prize for his commitment to interfaith dialogue in Pakistan. For 25 years, the award has been given to people and projects working for human rights.
The cardinal is known for his campaign against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which he believes is too easily manipulated for personal attacks or to target religious minorities for insubstantial or pretended offenses.