|Bishop: Pressure remains on Christians in Pakistan|
Bishop Alexander John Malik presides over the diocese of Lahore and is
moderator of the Church of Pakistan. A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin.
By Linda Bloom*
Sept. 13, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Six years after the tragedy of Sept. 11, Christians in Pakistan
remain under intense pressure as religious extremism has increased,
according to a bishop there.
"Christians in Islamic countries are viewed with suspicion," said
Bishop Alexander John Malik during a Sept. 10-12 visit with United
Methodist and Episcopal leaders in New York. He presides over the
diocese of Lahore and is moderator of the Church of Pakistan.
Immediately after Sept. 11, "our churches were attacked, institutions
were attacked, Christians were killed," he told staff at the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Part of the problem, he added, is
the mindset among Muslims "that all Christians are westerners and all
westerners are Christians."
Buoyed by opposition to the U.S. war on terror, as well as U.S.
intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, Osama Bin Laden "has become a
hero" to some people in Pakistan, the bishop said. "Capturing Osama will
not solve the problem. (He) is an ideology now."
Malik said Christians have regained some rights under Pakistan’s
current president, General Pervez Musharraf, including the ability to
reclaim church-related schools and colleges that had been nationalized
in 1972. About 50 percent are now run again by Christians, although they
face competition from Muslim-run schools, he said.
"He (Musharraf) has brought back the Christians and other minorities into the mainstream," Malik said.
The result of a union in the 1970s of the Methodist, Anglican,
Lutheran and Scottish Presbyterian denominations, the Church of Pakistan
has eight dioceses presided over by eight bishops. Malik, formerly of
the Anglican Church, estimates that Christians make up about 3 percent
of the population of Pakistan.
"Capturing Osama will not solve the problem. (He) is an ideology now."
-Bishop Alexander John Malik
The bishop said the union has had its problems, particularly with
issues of property and personalities, but noted that the new generation
of Christians in Pakistan do not identify themselves by a previous
Women still are not ordained in the Church of Pakistan, although the
topic has been under discussion. Malik said he personally is in favor of
women’s ordination but believes it should not occur until a majority of
church members approve it.
He noted that one of his three daughters is theologically trained and
married to a Baptist pastor in England. She does not wish to seek
ordination in the Church of England, however, until the Church of
Pakistan changes its policy, he said.
The growing Muslim extremism in Pakistan is leading some Christians
to live abroad. "We are losing our intellectuals and professionals at a
big rate," Malik said.
Malik receives threatening letters for speaking out in support of
Christians in Pakistan. "But I have to defend my community," he said. "I
have to give them hope."
The bishop wants to share that hope with others. "We have a message
for the world — a message of love, peace and light — which we must
spread," he said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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