THE threat facing minorities in Pakistan was laid bare on
Monday, the day of the Archbishop of Canterbury's arrival in the
country, when an American doctor was shot dead in the Punjab
Mehdi Ali, a volunteer cardiologist born in Pakistan, was a
member of the minority Ahmadi community, which faces persecution in
Security is tight for Archbishop Welby's visit to the country.
On Tuesday, he met the diocesan bishops of the Church of Pakistan,
the Governor of Punjab, and leaders from a range of faith
Michael Binyon, a journalist from The Times who was
invited to join the trip, said that the Archbishop would "promise
global support from the Anglican Communion in fighting
discrimination and resisting persecution. At the same time he will
try to promote reconciliation among Pakistan's Anglicans, who in
recent years have been riven by court cases over property and sales
of church land (News, 2 November 2006)."
On Wednesday, the Revd Rana Youab Khan, Assistant Curate of St
Anselm's, Belmont, in London diocese, who grew up in Pakistan, said
that security was a "big concern" for the country's Christians: "A
big number have moved to Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia," he
said. He highlighted the case of Mr Ali as an example of the
threats faced by religious minorities.
The Archbishop's visit would encourage Christians in Pakistan,
said Mr Khan, who co-leads the Connecting Communities project,
which encourages Pakistanis in the UK to use their influence to
promote peace and reconciliation in Pakistan (News, 11
"In spite of all the threats, extremism and terrorism, and all
the problems that the whole country is facing, the Church is
growing," he said. "The Archbishop's priorities of prayer,
evangelism and reconciliation are very important for the Church of
Pakistan, and it needs support and guidance for reconcilation with
people of other faiths."
Christians make up less than five per cent of the population in
Pakistan. They face discrimination and violence, particularly in
association with accusations of blasphemy. On Tuesday, the court
hearing concerning Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who has been
sentenced to death after being charged with blasphemy, was again
postponed (News, 9 May).