Dr. Caroline Carson, Postulant from the Diocese of Louisiana, shares a reflection this week.
"One must keep living" Such simple, yet powerful words uttered from so many Christians I met in Pakistan the day after the Easter bombing in Gulshan-I-Iqbal Park in Lahore. The absence of freedom of speech, the realities of inequality, and the constant fear of violating Pakistan's "blasphemy laws” are everyday tensions. Many Christians have been killed and buildings set on fire from mob attacks because these laws are regularly misused. 20-foot walls, assault-weaponed security on every corner, and barbed wire everywhere - these all regular sights for schools, libraries, stores, hotels, etc. Then the suicide bombers are expected and bring a despair that does not cease. A new and rising trend is that children are being used as bombers: the innocent killing the innocent. Everyone, Muslim and Christian alike, must look over their shoulders and live in constant fear of Taliban attacks at any time or place. Another aspect of this terror is the profound sadness that attacks have become so commonplace. After a couple of days in the news, things tend to be forgotten. Everyone I met asked for us to pray for them and/or for the energy of peace.
While the Diocese of Peshawar is one of the most hostile anywhere, on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and encompasses a region where there is barely any civil law, anyone who comes to them is a welcomed child of God. The Diocese of Raiwind in Lahore mimics this in a time where terror attacks are rising at an alarming rate. The Diocese of Raiwind provides education, health care in outlying parts of Lahore (including the malaria-endemic brick kilns areas where children as young as six and women work in the kilns to pay off family debts they know nothing about), rehabilitation programs for victims of sex trafficking, and pastoral care to thousands. The Diocese of Raiwind also continues to be extremely active in peace building and reaching out to fellow religious leaders in the city and region. They hold regular gatherings to try and determine what can concretely be done to stave off terror and oversee what can be done to help victims of bombings. They live life and faith "above ground" as Bishop Mano Rumalshah (bishop emeritus of Peshawar) says. Moderator Bishop Samuel Azariah is an amazing leader with a terrific and dedicated staff. The feeling from all of them when asked about putting their lives on the line for the diocese was that they would "rather die doing something good than to be sitting in the corner, frozen in fear."
It is of utmost importance to realize that religious leaders and practitioners of Islam are not inherently violent and all Muslims are not against Christians. They consider us brothers and sisters. There has long been an underlying current that each religion is set out to convert each other and this creates continuing suspicion. The Taliban know that if they attack Christians, the Western media will make it a huge event and they get what they want - fear and anxiety to win over stability and peace.
The links below provide information and opportunities to follow along with our brothers and sisters and to reach out and get connected and involved.
Please tell your elected officials to support peace building in South Asia and the Middle East. All world governments should stand with peacemaking, especially in areas afflicted by daily tensions and bombs.
A prayer for Pakistan:
For the magnificent and hospitable, yet besieged country of Pakistan, we pray to you Heavenly Father. For the cities steeped in the shadows of terror, for its peaceful people living in stress and fear, ever seeking stability and freedom - we ask for tranquility. Out of the depths of religious and civic turmoil, we cry to you for reconciliation, tolerance, and stability. For the victims and families of the bombed, we seek your comfort and healing. For those deceived from childhood and led into a life filled with the false glory of a paradise gained through self-destruction, we pray for new eyes to discover the truth and a safe way out of their current lifestyle. For those with terrorist connections, we pray they may act honestly and rightly. Grant an end to violence and a return to hope. Enable those who put loving first to be strengthened and to be confident enough to continue to live their faith out loud without fear and to continue to reach out to the suffering. For negative images of Pakistan held by others to be lifted and changed, we pray. We ask these things in the name of God - who is large enough to love us all and gave his son that we might live in him. Amen.
It is vital to tell your elected officials to stand for peace in Pakistan. If you live in the United States, this includes urging the President, Secretary of State, and the United States Congress to support peace building in Pakistan. If you do not live in the United States, your voice is just as important: all world governments must stand with peacemakers in Pakistan.
You can find contact information for the President, the Secretary of State, and your members of Congress below. We encourage you to call or write to express that as a person of faith, you support peace building.
The President: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
The Secretary of State: https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform
United States Senate: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
Your Local Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
If you would like to stay up to date on advocacy and receive resources around international and domestic issues, you can join the Episcopal Public Policy Network.
Church of Pakistan
Anglican Communion: Pakistan
World Council of Churches: Pakistan
Photo Gallery: Pakistan
General Convention Resolution D035: Support Christians in Pakistan
BBC Country Profile: Pakistan
Media Library: Pakistan
Episcopal News Service: Pakistan