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People fear to own copy of the Qur’an

21 February 2014

THEOLOGICAL scholars in Pakistan are afraid to own a copy ofthe Qur'an, in a climate in which "people have stopped thinking theologically about other religions," a priest born in the country said this week.

The Revd Rana Youab Khan (above), Assistant Curate of St Anselm's, Belmont, in London diocese, grew up in Pakistan, where he attended a madrasah (school) attached to a mosque. On Sunday, after preaching in St Paul's Cathedral, he gave a talk to 100 people on religious intolerance and its implications for Christian theology in Pakistan.

"Intolerance in Pakistan is affecting a lot of the country in many ways, but those people who are involved with theological discussions and religious discourse are hugely affected," he said on Tuesday.

"In theological institutions who traditionally were famous for Christian-Muslim studies, people are now fearful to discuss anything openly or write about Islam. . . There is a big barrier on think-ing for yourself, and people have stopped thinking theologically about other religions, especially Islam.

"I remember, I used to have different copies of the Qur'an in my library, the same as many Pakistani non-Muslim scholars, but now people are fearful even to have a copy in the library, because if people see, they will ask: 'Why do you have it?'"

Mr Khan said that attending a madrasah, in spite of being a Christian, had been unusual, but it had given him a unique perspective. "When you happily live with others in this way, you are able to overcome the whole concept and tragedy of otherness."

After working for Lord Williams when he was Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Khan now co-leads the Connecting Communities project, which encourages the Pakistani diaspora in the UK to use its influence to promote peace and reconciliation in Pakistan (News, 11 October).

On Wednesday, he said that he had hope for Pakistan, because it was a country that "came into being so that people could exercise their religion freely. . . The whole philosophy of Pakistan was to save the biggest religious minority of the Indian sub-continent [Muslims]."

Korean Christians to build peace centre. The diocese of Peshawar announced last week that a groupof Korean Christians were planning to build a peace centre to commemorate the victims of the bomb blast at All Saints', Peshawar, which killed 117 people last year (News, 20 September). The announce-ment was made after a visit last month by Korean church leaders, facilitated by the Bishop's Commissary for the Far East, the Revd Matthew Jeon.

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