AS FURTHER details of the attack on Christians in Gojra, Pakistan, emerged this week (News, 7 August), the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, and the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr Ali Gomaa, said they planned to visit the area to show solidarity.
“We stand ready to assist in any way that can help the government and people of Pakistan spread the message of peace and co-operation between all peoples and communities, whatever their religion is,” Bishop Chartres and Dr Gomaa said in a statement.
They spoke as co-chairmen of the organisation C-1 World Dialogue, and they recalled the principles outlined in the Common Word letter, written by Islamic leaders and addressed to the Christian Churches, which stated that all people of good will, whatever their religion, could believe in and live up to the commandments to love God and love their neighbour.
The director-general of C-1 World Dialogue, Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, visited Gojra last week. He said on Tuesday that four Evangelical Pentecostal churches in the poorest part of the village had been burned down. The family of seven that had been burned to death in their home were Roman Catholics.
“I heard reports that masked men had visited each household, and had asked them if they were Christian,” Canon Macdonald-Radcliff said. “This was not hard to establish anyhow, because they were mostly Roman Catholic, and there were pictures of the Sacred Heart on the wall. They would then go through the house for any jewellery. Then they would torch the house. They had Molotov cocktails to assist the blaze, and chemicals to help the fire burn more strongly. “For the first few days, the Christians had to shelter under a tarpaulin stretched across the street, but by Tuesday tents had arrived.”
He said that the claim that the destruction was a deliberate attempt by al-Qaeda-inspired elements to polarise the communities would “certainly fit the facts”.
Ministers had visited the village, and had promised support. The question was whether they would be able to follow up their promises with action.
“The visit of the Grand Mufti would be very significant, because, although relations between Muslims and Christians in Egypt are not perfect, it does show that the two communities can get along together.”
The visit could probably not be arranged for six months, Canon Macdonald-Radcliff said, “but it would be very significant, because, once the politicians have left, these things tend to be forgotten by the outside world. Their visit would remind people that this issue must be addressed.”