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Pakistan to protect Christians

18 December 2008

by Bill Bowder

Still needing protection: Pakistani Christians wait for a security check on arriving for mass last Christmas AP

Still needing protection: Pakistani Christians wait for a security check on arriving for mass last Christmas AP

THE High Commissioner of Pak­istan met the Archbishop of Canter­bury and the Bishop of Bradford in London on Wednesday, amid rising fears for the safety of churchgoers in the North-West Frontier Province, after a fresh death-threat was re­ceived by a church school last week.

The High Commissioner, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said after the meet­ing that he would immediately discuss increasing security for Chris­tians during the run-up to Christ­mas with the interior minister of Pakis­tan and the government of the province.

“We will take every means pos­sible to protect the Christian com­munity, and arrest the people who are re­sponsible for these threats,” he said.

The government would take “ex­tra­ordinary” measures to ensure that Christmas passed peacefully for Christians, he said. The new ruling party’s aim was to return to the founding vision of Pakistan as a place where faith and politics were sep­arate, and all faiths lived in peaceful co-operation. He said that last week the government had an­nounced that an extra five per cent of all govern­ment posts would be reserved for Christians.

He also said that he intended to meet the Bishop of Bradford, Dr David James, and leaders of the Pakistani community in Bradford to help consolidate the improvements in community rela­tions. His govern­ment had been in power for nine months, and was try­ing to clear up years of “stupendous mess”.

Last Friday, the Bishop of Pesh­awar, the Rt Revd Manowar Rumalshah, met the Archbishop of Canter­bury to brief him on the earlier violence against the Christian com­munity (News, 5 December). The most recent threat was delivered to the Church of Pakistan’s Elizabeth School and College last Saturday. A letter accused the school of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity: “We will shed the blood of those Chris­tians who persuade Muslims.”

The school authorities were quick to say that none of its institutions permitted any attempt to convert Muslims.

The letter continued: “The pur­pose of our organisation is to wage holy war against infidels. Such pro­grammes occur in your college. This time you have called Muslims on your Christmas Eid through a pro­gramme and remember we will blow up your college.”

It said that the Americans were happy when Muslims were killed: “Recently in India some Christians and Jews have been killed and that has alarmed America.”

The Revd Dr David Gosling, the Principal of Edwardes College, at the University of Peshawar, who has seen the letter, said it contained a threat of violence to “other institutions along with yours”. This presumably in­cluded his college, he said. “The death threats are linked to the military activities of the USA and Britain, and make specific reference to the Mumbai bombings.”

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