Changing customs

02 November 2006


THE BISHOP of Bradford, the Rt Revd David James, in whosdiocese are many Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh, recently spent ten dayin Pakistan to visit Christians and Muslim scholars there.

With him went Dr Philip Lewis (left), his interfaith adviser; Canon GuWilkinson (right of the Bishop), the Archbishops interfaith adviser; anDominic Mighal, interfaith consultant for Bradford diocese. All are seen herrecovering their footwear after a visit to a mosque.

Not with them are the two women of the party, Canon Frances Ward froBradford Cathedral, and Sandra Herbert from Leicester, but not because thewere excluded from the mosque visit: they were behind the camera, Canon Wartold me.

Their presence with the group meant that Pakistani women were often broughto the meetings. They even met a woman theologian, recently appointed to run ainstitute for educational research. But otherwise, Canon Ward said, she waappalled at the 11-per-cent literacy rate among women; and there is neducation at all for rural girls.

The group stayed with the Bishop of Lahore, the Rt Revd Alexander Malikwhere they heard of the difficulties of being Christian in a country where 9per cent of the population is Muslim. They also met Muslim scholars, includinthose "who are seeking to interpret Islam for todays world", said the BishopThey suggested that a renaissance and reformation might be taking place, nounlike the one that Christian Europe experienced 500 years ago.

Dr Lewis said that the party found "a passion and conviction amondistinguished scholars to dismantle the legacy of reactionary and ideologicaIslam and adopt a more modernist approach". Amid their visits to churchesmosques, and scholars, they also went to Muzaffarabad, one of the many placeaffected by the earthquake, and saw the Christian hospital that was the onlbuilding to survive.

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