Easter ‘with Taliban blessing’

15 April 2009

by Bill Bowder

Taking it in: a Pakistani Roman Catholic woman listens to the priest at an Easter Day mass in Peshawar AP

Taking it in: a Pakistani Roman Catholic woman listens to the priest at an Easter Day mass in Peshawar ...

EASTER DAY passed off without a hitch in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, thanks to the Taliban’s support, the Principal of Edwards College, Peshawar, the Revd Dr David Gosling, said on Tuesday.

Seven thousand worshippers — more than last year — had received communion in the Cathedral, and Dr Gosling had helped at the 4-a.m. service, attended by many young people. “The Taliban, who are very visible and easy to contact, had been contacted in advance, about a week before Easter, by a group representing the churches, and they said: ‘Go ahead with the services. We totally want you to have your services.’”

In the Swat district, where militants attacked a church school with rockets at night last year (News, 5 December 2008), Dr Gosling said that the Taliban had told them: “Have your services, and give us a list of anybody who doesn’t attend.”

“I suppose they said that because if you do not attend the services, they will punish you. All the services went without incident. There is good will between the extremist Muslims and Christians. They are not our enemies.”

An English-language eucharist for English people celebrated by Dr Gosling later on Easter Day, however, was attended by only five people. The Americans had been advised not to be present for security reasons. “They have all run away,” he said.

On Monday, the BBC reported that the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, had signed a Bill introducing sharia law in the country’s Malakand division, which includes Swat. The implementation of Islamic law was agreed by the government in February in return for an end to the Taliban insurgency.

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