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
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
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."