WCC Delegation Reports on Adverse Conditions Facing Christians in Pakistan

Nov 13, 2002 03:00 AM EST

A September 25th airforce assault on Isdara-e-Amn-o-Insaf (Committee for Justice and Peace), a Christian institution in Karachi, resulted in the death of seven young Christian workers. At a following November 5 conference where various church leaders gathered with a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC), a former officer of Pakistan's airforce spoke and described the attack, "An extreme kind of terrorism never witnessed before - an execution carried out by professionals."

The WCC paid visit to Krachi and Lahore to further investigate underlying difficulties within Pakistan's churches and to better understand the impact the war in Afghanistan has had on the small country. In their duration there, the group representatives met with various leaders and political figures, as well as lay people and family of attacked victims, only to discover that attacks on Christians have severely heightened since the onset of the war, and that the safety of the Christian community is under great threat.

The key and urgent message brought before the eyes of many observers was that Pakistan is threatened with a deep crisis: religious intolerance, hatred and sectarian strife, where the state hardly acknowledges human rights. Some representatives attribute this to the country's feudalism; corrupt politics and incessant military intervention, while others are looking more toward the weak law enforcement and complacent judicial system of the country.

Other representatives pointed out that corrupt and inefficient law enforcement, a complacent judicial system, and lack of accountability have encouraged a climate of violence and impunity. Many observers point out that "military tyranny" is bringing many divisions within the country. With the government in constant dealings with military and political issues, they are left with little or no time to allot to the personal lives of individual Christians, leaving the many Christians left to face their struggles alone.

The faith displayed by a young group of Christian girls forced to convert to Islam, struck delegation members in surprise. After meeting various Idara victims such as the young widows, the representatives say they become very aware of the cultural derived difficulties imposed upon the women of Pakistan.

At a Muslim-Christian International Federation meeting WCC delegates attended, Muslim leaders voiced complaints concerning the negligent treatment of their western compatriots. They complained that the mostly Christian West targets countries such as Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, with racial profiling and discrimination, followed by random arrests in the US, the UK and Australia. These things are stirring a lot of anger and grievances in the Muslim world, they said.

In response to the negative perception of the West, the delegation assured these leaders that churches in the US, UK and other western countries are not condoning of government behavior and policy in dealing with the issue of Afghanistan and the possibility of an imminent war with Iraq. The delegation explained to leaders the theological and ethical view of the church - which is to look down upon all war-like actions and instead promote a peaceful resolution through the United Nations.

After their visit, the delegation reported to the WCC to continue monitoring over the Christians in Pakistan, as well as to provide support the churches until this period of trial and tribulation comes to a halt in the country of terror.

Members of the WCC delegation:
Bishop Roger Sainsbury, moderator of Churches' Commission for Racial Justice, UK
Rev. Ms Youngsook Charlene Kang, deputy general secretary, Mission Contexts and Relationships/Mission Education, United Methodist Church, USA
Rev. John Moyer, director, Frontier Internship in Mission
Prof. Leo Koffeman, advisor for Ecumenical Relations to the general secretary, Uniting Churches in the Netherlands
Mr. Tony Warawantu, International Affairs secretary, Christian Conference of Asia
Mr. Clement John, Pakistan, Executive Secretary, International Relations, World Council of Churches

By Daniel K.
[email protected]