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Church of Pakistan ‘still seeks to grow’

10 April 2015

REUTERS

Keeping the faith on Good Friday: women worshippers pray at St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, Lahore, in Pakistan

Keeping the faith on Good Friday: women worshippers pray at St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, Lahore, in Pakistan

DESPITE deadly persecution, the United Church of Pakistan is expanding - building new schools, increasing its social work, and extending its buildings to cope with growing congregations, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said on Wednesday.

During a visit to the diocese of Lahore, which has a link with his own, Dr Walker was struck by the fact that, despite "endemic discrimination", Christians "do not lose their joy or their ambitions both for themselves and also for the growth and extension of their churches".

He visited church schools where, as in those in Manchester, Muslims are being educated alongside Christians, meaning that "children are used to associating with Christians, so their attitudes towards Christians tend to be positive and wholesome."

On Saturday, he visited St Denys' School for girls, partially destroyed by arson five years ago, but now thriving as a "visible example of new life from death".

On Sunday, he preached at Christ Church, Youhanabad, one of two churches bombed last month (News, 20 March). In the presence of the families of those killed, the atmosphere was "joyful but tinged with sorrow", he said. One victim's life-support machine had been turned off just two days earlier. After the service, Dr Walker prayed with each family. There was still some anger, he said, because of the response of the police. He had been told that the police had taken a "very aggressive" approach to handling the lynching of two men believed to be connected with the bombings by a Christian mob, arresting 200 Christian teenage boys and releasing them after beating them up. It was felt that, in contrast, the pursuit of the bombers had been inadequate.

Efforts by Pakistan to improve the security of Christians had improved on the whole, Dr Walker suggested. A bomb-disposal unit was present at St Thomas's, Islamabad, where he could see church security guards patrolling the roof as he preached.

The link between the two dioceses remained strong, after 27 years, he said: "We can notice similarities and differences and that strengthens us to understand our own contexts better."

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