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November 21, 2005

What the Archbishop of Canterbury should be saying on his visit to Pakistan: stop the persecution of Christians

Posted by Peter Mullen

The Archbishop of Canterbury will be visiting Pakistan this week. The Archbishop is likely to talk much about inter-faith harmony. Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - suggests that this is all well and good but that it should not be at the expense of complaining vigorously about the persecution which Christians are suffering in that Muslim country.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to pay a visit to Pakistan. As he packs his bags he says:

This is also a very important time for Pakistan's faith communities - the good relations between Christians and Muslims in many parts of the UK and in Pakistan provide a platform for building further and for eradicating mistrust and misunderstanding. I am pleased to be able to visit Muslim students, scholars and leaders in the Islamic University of Islamabad and elsewhere.
I wonder what "good relations" he is referring to? In reality it is a very dangerous thing to practise the Christian faith in Pakistan. At Christmas 2002 a church was burnt to the ground and many Christians were injured and dispossessed. Only last week a church, church school and other Christian buildings were destroyed or severely damaged and again Christians went in danger of their lives.

One can understand that the Archbishop wishes above all to build on good relations where they exist, but this should not be at the expense of complaining vigorously about the persecution which Christians are suffering in that Muslim country. But nowhere in his fairly lengthy announcement of his trip does Dr Williams so much as mention that anything is amiss.

Unfortunately, the Church of England hierarchy is in denial when it comes to the sufferings of Christians at the hands of fanatical Muslims. We do not look only to Pakistan. Christians are persecuted by Muslim extremists in Sudan, Somalia and Israel. Most of the Christian population of Bethlehem, for example, has been driven out by threats and violence. A fortnight since in Indonesia three schoolgirls were abducted and beheaded and their heads left outside the Christian school they had attended. You can't wear a crucifix in Saudi Arabia without having it wrenched from around your neck.

Everyone hopes and prays for better interfaith relationships, but these relationships cannot be improved by the conspicuous and constant refusal to draw attention to the way Christian individuals and communities in many parts of the world are being savaged by their Muslim neighbours. There is a consistency and unifying factor in these disturbing attacks: they are all perpetrated upon Christians by Muslims not by "terrorists" or "insurgents", but by Muslims and in the name of Islam.

Of course not all Muslims behave so disgracefully. But what can be stated with complete truthfulness is that all the attackers are Muslims. It's not the Jews doing these murders or the Hindus burning our churches. How long will it be and what degree of atrocity will have to be suffered before the church hierarchy in particular and British politicians generally accept that there is a global insurrection against western institutions and the whole way of life which these institutions embody and represent? It is not a "clash of civilisations" but rather a case of civilisation versus barbarism.

S. T. Coleridge understood the nature of this persistent threat back in the 1820s when he wrote about:

That erection of a temporal monarch under the pretence of a spiritual authority, which was not possible in Christendom but by the extinction or entrancement of the spirit of Christianity, and which has therefore been only partially attained by the Papacy this was effected in full by Mahomet, to the establishment of the most extensive and complete despotism that ever warred against civilisation and the interests of humanity.

S T Coleridge, On the Constitution of the Church and State, p. 120 (J M Dent 1972 ed.)

That would be an appropriate text for The Archbishop when he preaches at the Muslim University in Islamabad. Shouldn't the leader of the Anglican Church worldwide be expressing solidarity with his persecuted Christian brethren rather than holding a love-in in the shape of an anodyne interfaith junket with the chief representatives of those persecutors of the Body of Christ?

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.

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