It's like a tedious journey, to preach tolerance, peace, harmony and love. It's certainly not easy to bring communities to a point where they talk about similarities and not the differences. The path is hard, people are rigid and resources limited but I'm hopeful enough to dream that our children will see a new sun rising tomorrow. I hope to be tranformed myself and also to help others to transform. I hope for the day when no one will be taken his right to live in the name of religion and faith, when nobody will be denied right to work and live in peace on the bases of colour, creed, race, gender or religion.
I want to address the skeptical, the cynical, and the hopeless â€“ for all who have lost faith in the powers of love.......
I have stumbled, pushed, pulled,
And directed my whole life
Toward the expansion of my divine humanity,
An inner largeness
That keeps spreading my soul before me
And expanding my spirit around me.
Something closed and cold within
Keeps turning me toward the eternal glow of love
Until I melt and overflow
In tears and screams and laughter and roars,
And vitality spins around me like a dance.
I can't stop now.
I have taken risks
On purpose because I believe in love
And accidentally because I was naÃ¯ve.
I not only have been burned, I have been consumed
In the fire of hope.
But after the pain I am always resurrected,
To my amazement, again and again
Each time I dust off the ashes of experience
I am deeper and richer
And closer to the wonder of who I really am,
And, as the family of humankind,
Who we really are.
. . . Keep the faith
I hope that this sharing clears my reason of being here and presenting this paper. Since my first exposure in Bossey in the year 2001, I've been thinking of doing something that can bring change in the ecumenical scene of Pakistan. I left Bossey with a lot of dreams and hopes, but when I got back to my country, I realized that this will not be an easy journey. I promised myself not to lose hope, and now, I'm here to share my views, ideas and some facts regarding my homeland.
v SPIRITUAL ECUMENISM ........... The term described and understood in Pakistan
Ecumenism is comparatively a new word for most of us in Pakistan. Many people have never even heard the word. In today's fast moving world, it is important to have knowledge about international issues, concerning human lives and dignity. Ecumenism is one of the issues that have affected our lives in one way or the other since centuries. I hope that today's discussion will help the participants in broadening their view of the situation of Ecumenism in Pakistan.
I will certainly not go into the details but to keep the continuity of my paper, I would like to explain the word Ecumenism in a few lines. The word Ecumenism is derived from the Greek word Oikoumenes, which means the 'inhabited world'. The term is usually used with regard to movements toward religious unity. In its most broad meaning therefore, ecumenism is the religious initiative toward world-wide unity. As a minimum, ecumenism is the promotion of unity, cooperation or improved understanding between distinct religious groups or denominations within the same religion more or less broadly defined.
Two general types of ecumenism are discernible. The interfaith ecumenical movement strives for greater mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation between the world's religions. Ecumenism in this sense is discussed at great under the entry on religious pluralism. This is distinguishable from ecumenism within a faith group.
I would like to quote Walter Cardinal Kasper (PCPCU)here who asserted that "without spirituality, the Ecumenical Movement becomes merely an academic affair, where " normal" Christians cannot follow, where they feel excluded and finally frustrated; or it becomes a soul-less activism, the business of an endless series of conferences, symposiums, gatherings, meetings and ever new documents, which nobody can read". So, unity among faith and religious groups is necessary to heal the world's wounds of suffering.
v Present situation of Christian Minority in Pakistan
Pakistan has a population of around 150 million, 97% of whom are Muslim. Islam is the state religion, but the Constitution provides for religious freedom. About 2% of the population is Christian and rest consists of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist and other small groups.
This is a verified factual and very sad report. It does show that persecution is still the hallmark of true Bible based Christianity.
Â· November 2004 - Pakistani religious minorities say blasphemy law reforms not enough
Â· September 2004 - Second Pakistani Christian tortured to death by police in four months
Â· July 2004 - Pakistani Government drafts bill to revise discriminatory laws
Â· June 2004 - Pakistani Christian dies â€“ CSW urges supporters to pray and campaign
Â· May 2004 - Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy in critical condition after attack
Â· May 2004 - Pakistani Christian dies of torture at hands of Islamists
Â· December 2003 - Human Rights Defender has travel ban lifted
Â· July 2003 - Pakistani Priest gunned down
Â· June 2003 - Pakistani Christian set free after over four years in prison for blasphemy
Â· May 2003 - Nine year old Christian girl in Pakistan sexually assaulted as punishment for war in Iraq
Â· May 2003 - Another Christian child raped in Pakistan
Â· April 2003 - Pakistani Christian found guilty of blasphemy after trial in court filed with Islamic extremists
Â· April 2003 - Pakistani Christian â€“ falsely accused, tortured and murdered. Protestors take his dead body to the streets in protest
Â· March 2003 - Saleem and Rasheed Masih of Pakistan released
Â· March 2003 - Extremists incite violence against Christians at Anti-War Rallies in Pakistan
Â· September 2002 - Christian human rights workers executed during attack in Pakistan
Â· September 2002 - Prominent Pakistani Christian warns of "Reign of Terror" for Christians if Iraq attacked by America
Â· August 2002 - Supreme Court acquitted Ayub Masih
Â· August 2002 - Four nurses killed in grenade attack on Christian Hospital in Pakistan
There are many incidents of brutality brought on Christians by Muslim Extremist Groups. The Christian villages, churches, houses and even graveyards are demolished. Whenever the effectees approach the authorities, they show insensitivity towards the Christians. Mentioned below are some of the names, which have become the target of Muslim attackers.
1. Village Mattha, District Lahore
2. Village Bath, District Lahore
3. Village Jindre, District Lahore
4. Village China Basti, District Lahore
5. Village Dhobi Serai, District Lahore
6. Village Ahata Thanedar, District Lahore
7. Village Raiwind, District Lahore
8. Village Martinpur, District Sheikhupura
9. Village Youngsonabad, District Sheikhupura
10. Village 113, Sangla, District Sheikhupura
11. Village Sacha Sauda, District Sheikhupura
12. Village Singhra, District Sheikhupura
13. Village Qila Diar Singla, District Gujranwala
14. Village Khan Jaja, District Sialkot
15. Village Fauji Quarters, Peshawar
16. Village Dogaich, District Lahore
17. Village Shanti Nagar, District Khanewal
(In preparing this report, help has been taken from the yearly reports of National Commission for Justice & Peace, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi offices, Pakistan Christian Community Council, Lahore, Pakistan, International Christian Concern (US based Human Rights Organization and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK.))
Nature of Islam
Islam, like most other monotheistic faiths, views itself as the only true path or way. For someone who is living after Prophet Muhammad, the only way to go to Paradise, and avoid Hell, is to follow the message of Islam. Other monotheistic faiths before Islam are also considered valid. For someone to worship other Gods (contradicting monotheism), or denying prophet hood of Muhammad is a sure way to Hell.
However, this view does not at all translate to religious intolerance. Far from it, Islam has guaranteed freedom of belief and freedom of worship from the time of Muhammad himself. Non-Muslim minorities living under Muslim rule were guaranteed certain freedoms and protections, under the Dhimmi system. Although that system was initially for people of the book (i.e., Jews and Christians), it was extended to include Mandeans, Zoroastrians and Hindus.
Despite the common allegation that Islam spread by the sword, in reality, forced conversions of adherents of other religions is not sanctioned by Islam, and is not common throughout Islamic history. It is true that Muslim rule spread through conquest, but that is the military and political aspect only, and not the religious one. In other words, war was waged to put lands under Muslim rule, but the subjects were free to continue practice whatever religion they chose. However, they were subject to taxation and political and economic impediments based on their non-Muslim status. At one time, this was not a unique activity of Muslim countries, as similar legal restrictions and penalties were imposed on minority Christian groups within European Christian countries.
Religious persecution is also not sanctioned by Islam, although a few occurrences are known in history, but are mostly due to cruel rulers, or general economic hardships in the societies they are in.
To that effect, most pre-Islamic religious minorities continue to exist in their native countries, a fact which is in glaring contrast to the extinction of Muslim minorities in Europe at the time of the Renaissance.
Over the centuries, several known religious debates, and polemical works did exist in various Muslim countries between various Muslim sects, as well as between Muslims and non-Muslims. Many of these works survive today, and make for some very interesting reading in the apologetics genre. Only when such debates spilled over to the unlearned masses, and thus causing scandals, and civil strife did rulers intervene to restore order and pacify the public outcry on the perceived attack on their beliefs.
As for sects within Islam, history shows a variable pattern. Various sects became intolerant when gaining favour with the rulers, and often work to oppress or eliminate rival sects (e.g. Mu'tazili persecution of Salafis, Safavid imposing Shia on the population of Iran, etc.). Sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni inhabitants of Baghdad is well known through history. In contrast, several sects coexist in other parts of the Muslim world with little or no friction.
Relationship between Christians, Muslims and Jews
Theological Basis â€“ an overview
The Jewish people see themselves as descendants of Abraham, the father of flesh and of faith; Christian people see themselves as heirs of Abraham, the father of faith; and Muslim people see themselves as descendents of Abraham as well. The Hebrew Scriptures see Isaac and Ishmael as brothers, as well as Jacob and Esau. The Christian Scriptures see the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles already reflected in the story of Hagar and Sarah, as well as in the bond that unites Moses and Jesus. Now, in this scenario, we see the bond that unites Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Christians, Muslims and Jews are brothers and sisters, are descendents of Abraham; all believe that God is one; all see Abraham as prototype of faith. This is the basis for the new ecumenism.
How Ecumenical Spirituality can be helpful in the present scenario
Pathways for the Church in Pakistan
Christian praxis includes both action and reflection. Taking time to pause for reflection and evaluation is an essential element in any ecclesial journey. The entire more so if a Church and the culture which surrounds it tend towards activism. By the same token, open-minded planning is an essential element in receptivity to the designs of providence. There are several indicators that the Church in Pakistan has reached that stage in its development where an overview and evaluation of the present situation is a necessary step in planning future priorities. Under God's grace it has much to rejoice in - although naturally, one of the things it would also wish to rejoice in is a willingness to be challenged to new initiatives, priorities and values. There have been several developments - mostly, though not always of a positive nature - which demand our attention and evaluation. Worthy of mention is the renewal of interest in and commitment to various forms of adult catechesis as well as the growing awareness that more appropriate methods need to be found for the disbursement and evaluation of development aid. These events are first and foremost an invitation to dialogue and further reflection. The Second Millennium of the Incarnation - to be celebrated in the universal Church as a Year of Jubilee - invites a similar reflection: a taking stock; an act of repentance and hope; an opening of our collective mind and heart to the action of the Holy Spirit. Part of this repentance and openness is an intellectual conversion aimed at freeing our minds from inadequate or false assumptions, predispositions and priorities; and part of this intellectual conversion is the willingness to evaluate the status quo. Over the previous generations much has been achieved; or to rise above the language of success and failure, we can say that God has been faithful to his people here in Pakistan and the question may now be posed as to how we - in the on-going journey - may be faithful to God.
We may begin by attempting a first approximation at delineating some of the more obvious characteristics of the life of the Church here. Since the Church is a community which at one and the same time rejoices in the living presence of the Spirit of God and is permanently open to reform and renewal, we will attempt to describe both the "light" and the "shadow"; the positive and the negative. The willingness to do both together is an act of mature self-acceptance; neither evading reality nor manipulating it. Our readiness to deal in reality is an aspect of our rooted ness in God who is Al-haq!
The Church which under God's grace, has come into being here in Pakistan has many fine qualities and strengths, which can be helpful in creating an ecumenical secne and thus resulting in a united community, consisting of people of other faiths as well:
i. It continues to exist and grow in a non-Christian and non-supportive environment
ii. It is very much a Church of the poor, God's chosen ones
iii. It is engaged in an on-going and far-reaching practical ecumenism
iv. It is a Church with a profound religious sensibility
v. There is a growth in local vocations to ministry
vi. At all levels it is socially involved; both "religiously" and "developmentally"
vii. It has a highly developed organizational infrastructure
viii. Among the People of God there is a tangible love for "The Word"
ix. The Church membership has retained a strong cultural identity. The Church in Pakistan is very much a Pakistani Church.
x. The communities have a very strong identity as "Christians"
xi. Among Pakistani Christians there is a very solid sense of family and kinship.
xii. There is a strong devotional life with many indigenous resources; songs, pilgrimages, Marian meals etc.
This is the light; if there is light there is also a shadow!
i. At nearly all levels, the Christian community can be easily divided by the factionalism (partibazi) which characterizes social relations and by the consequences of other internalized oppression
ii. It is a Church massively reliant on foreign money
iii. It is constantly under threat externally and internally from fundamentalism and sectarianism
iv. The Liturgy has been translated but not acculturated
v. There is an impoverished Eucharistic sense
vi. A dependency mentality is still very strong
vii. Politically, psychologically and even physically it tends to be ghettoized
viii. The culture is consolidated but seldom critiqued by ecclesial praxis and therefore not sufficiently enriched by faith
ix. In general terms, the leadership remains authoritarian or paternalistic, reinforcing the dominant socio-political pattern rather than offering an evangelical alternative to it
x. The dignity and role of women are scarcely recognized
xi. There is little or no missionary outreach
xii. It mirrors the society in that personal freedom and responsibility are not really valued above conformity.
C) Creative Tension
Because of the constant dynamic interchange between these sometimes complementary and sometimes divergent currents there are several points of creative tension in the life of the Church. Christian hope invites us to see these as points of creativity, inventiveness and growth: a call to transform, to become, in a more profound way, the community which is the sign of God's universal salvation in this present historical moment of the journey to freedom of the people of Pakistan as a whole.
For the purposes of facilitating further development of these ideas, I would now like to juxtapose these attributes each with its light and shadow. What can emerge is a matrix of creative tension which can be the springboard for a programme of renewal.
a) Culture: Functionalities and Dysfunctionalities:
The Church will continue to exist and grow - mostly through the natural growth in the existing Christian population - which for demographic reasons is quite considerable. In its mentality and actions however, it is a microcosm of the surrounding culture with all the latter's vigour and vitality, as well as its dysfunctionalities. Our capacity to name the latter in an exercise of socio-cultural analysis needs to be matched by a capacity to observe how the Christian community tends to internalise them. (Socio-cutlural analysis can be difficult and demanding. The clearest indication of the strength and success of the socialisation process is how few people are capable of critiquing it. This holds true for just about every culture. It is an irony that people can be immensely proud of their culture - and justifiably so - and at the same time keenly aware of the injustice and violence in their society; and yet fail to see the connections between the two. For poverty, injustice and oppression persist not only because of the socio-economic structures which perpetuate them but also - and of equal importance - because of the cultural patterns which legitimate and transmit them. The inculturation of the Gospel includes the process of discovering in a given culture, the seedbed for a new and dynamic expression of the Christian faith; but equally, since all cultures institutionalise and legitimate a power structure, it includes the process of critiquing and transforming aspects of that culture in the light of ethical imperatives revealed in the living out of the Gospel). Because of the very particular history of socio-political oppression and marginalisation of our people, the internalisation of this oppression can give rise to pathologies with a consequent propensity towards horizontal violence that can run deep. The cultural reinforcement of these patterns can give rise to a form of oppression which in its own way is just as life-denying as the consequences of feudalism or militarism. At the same time this realisation needs to be tempered by taking cognisance of the fact that in the struggle against long-standing oppression, people in general adapt the only survival techniques available to them and that in turn, consolidates their attachment to them.
b) Transformation or Dependency:
By and large our Church is blessed through being rooted in the life of the poor and oppressed, and their struggle for dignity and equality and the transformation of society to which this points. The fundamentally feudal nature of society however - intensified by the authoritarianism of successive military dictatorships - as well as the internal colonialism in the wider society have tended to divert this transformative potential into an ever greater reliance on paternalism; and from an institutional point of view, on donations of foreign money. Although on the surface, the manner in which this is organised becomes ever more sophisticated and less crudely a matter of person-to-person handouts, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the basic pattern of dependency has in fact been consolidated. This has resulted in even less readiness to go down the road of self-reliance and transformative action.
In speaking of a Church of the poor, we should not overlook the fact that relative material prosperity among some sections of the Christian population is producing a class division within the Church itself. To the extent that the ostracising of groups like the families of sanitary workers by the wider society is mirrored - and therefore intensified - by a similar attitude among upwardly mobile Christians, serious questions may have to be asked about the hidden presuppositions in much of the Church's developmental programmes.
c) Fundamentalism or Contextualisation:
Great honour is given to the Bible and compared to many older and more developed Churches in other countries, there is real familiarity with its text and message. There is a richness here which cannot be overlooked. In fact it cries out to be contextualised and deepened. The singing of the Psalms in Punjabi is a very distinctive and enriching feature of church life here. Yet this esteem for Sacred Scripture could be undermining of a real sense of Church inasmuch as it is conceived in rather Islamic terms: there is an unspoken assumption (a false one) that the Bible functions in Church life and theology as the Quran sherif does in Islam. This leads to and is further exacerbated by the prevalence of a literalist and fundamentalist reading and preaching of the text. As a result, all sorts of self-appointed preachers abound, each offering a more exotic explanation and application of the text. Rivalries increase and with them, factionalism. There seems little sustained effort to promote a communitarian reading of Scripture, contextualised on the one hand, by the living tradition of the People of God and on the other, by the concrete struggle for justice and dignity which is the daily bread of our people.
Although at the level of the people's ordinary life especially in the area of marriage, there is a healthy practical ecumenism, there remains a serious doubt as to whether this is leading to an enriching cross-fertilisation among the different ecclesial communions. Rather, because of the overall fundamentalist approach to Scripture and the multiplication of sects, it may well be leading to a dilution of the ecclesial and sacramental sense. The result, instead of being a sharing of the highest common factor, may well be a reduction to the lowest common denominator. Moreover, the signs are that this underlying emphasis on "the book" - to be read privately at home - may have seriously diluted the perceived importance of gathering precisely as "Church". What in principle is an enrichment, may have become in practice an impoverishment of parish and ecclesial life.
d) Religiosity of Faith:
Anyone who has lived in a secularised society is immediately struck by the deep religious feeling in our society as a whole and also among our own people. This sense of the presence of God is not something to be simply taken for granted but constantly purified and enriched through spirituality. Yet as for example, the blasphemy laws indicate, strong religious feeling can be ethically ambiguous. It is not necessarily a measure of the faith that does justice and exercises itself in compassion and spirituality. In his own time, Jesus was not so much promoting religion in the face of irreligion, but purifying a religion caught up with the maintenance of oppressive social and ideological structures; replacing it with one based in spirit and truth, on an outreach to others in an attitude of service, rooted in the universal compassion of God for all his creatures.
In the present situation in Pakistan, the Church should not make the mistake of confusing religiosity with faith. Until the conventions of honouring the name of God in words, customs and buildings is translated into a willingness to reach out to our fellow humans and transcend our own personal and family ambition, society may indeed be religious in a socio-cultural sense, but the Christian concept of a faith expressing itself as love has scarcely taken root.
e)Vocations: Numbers or Quality?
There is a steady increase in vocations to the ministry of Sister and Father; less steady in the case of religious Brothers and perhaps a decline - at least in some Dioceses - in relation to the ministry of catechist. (Padri) Priest both self-appointed and officially nominated, abound. Personnel as such is not a problem. Yet it would appear that searching questions may have to be asked in relation to training, lifestyle and ministerial approach. The traditional type of catechist may well be in the process of becoming outmoded due to - among other factors - a gradual rise in the standard of education among the Christian community. On the other hand, there is unquestionably a need for full-time married lay pastoral workers of high calibre and adequate preparation who would be adequately remunerated.
If there are questions to be asked about the training of catechists, there are even more pressing ones with regard to the training of priests. If the Church continues to depend - as, under present circumstances, it almost certainly will - on a main model of leadership, then the intellectual calibre of the candidates for ordination as well as their spiritual motivation and capacity to acquire pastoral vision and skill, become issues of the utmost importance. While ordinations are increasing, the expectation that the Church could be led and serviced solely by local priests seems a long way from realisation because of an uneven growth in the number of ordinations in the different Dioceses, as well as the relatively significant numbers who continue to leave the ministry for a variety of reasons. Since trends in other countries make the assurance of a supply of presbyters from abroad somewhat problematic - even if that were to remain desirable - the training of suitable local lay people assumes even greater importance.
f) Control or Enablement
Whereas Christians in other countries have often appeared to suffer a deculturation process because of their conversion to Christianity, in Pakistan the local cultural identity has remained very strong. The particularly strong kinship patterns in Pakistani life afford a great sense of identity and security as well as a support system both in times of rejoicing and distress. Yet it may also be true that this incomparable sense of belonging with its many very positive aspects that should not be undervalued, also makes personal choice and a sense of personal responsibility somewhat problematic.
In various ways, the Church leadership at all levels, can be tempted to go along unquestioningly with these cultural presuppositions for they fit neatly into an authoritarian or paternalistic concept of authority and leadership. This is especially clear in relation to women and younger people. While this may make for simpler administration in the short term, it will not develop a sense of personal commitment and responsible service among the People of God and its leaders in particular.
The dialogue between culture and faith is not always a straightforward business. It is neither a case of submitting the indigenous culture to some supposedly classic faith-based culture rooted in a different experience, nor is it a matter of allowing the local cultural imperatives to be the judge of what aspects of the faith may be considered to be acceptable and life-giving. The relationship is much more dialectical and must include in the light of Gospel values, an analysis of the power structure in the local culture and an openness to critique of the cultural values which legitimate it. This process has scarcely begun. Not to begin it risks simply replicating this power structure in the organisation of the Church itself.
g) Accountability or Security:
The Church in Pakistan is marked by a deep and enduring commitment to integral human development. Through provision of land, schools, hospitals, co-operatives, health programmes, youth movements and in countless other ways, the Church has reached out to the whole person in community. It has consistently avoided the alienation inherent in reducing the Gospel to a "purely religious" message and has remained sensitive and committed to the people in their struggle against poverty and exclusion.
The particular way this commitment continues to be expressed has given rise to a massive physical infrastructure so heavily dependent on external funding, that even when the resources are fully in place, their maintenance alone is beyond the financial scope of the Local Church - and if present policies are continued, will always remain so. There are huge implications here for the kind of Church we may wish to become and they have to be recognized and faced. Moreover there seems to be little accountability or evaluation either of the use of funds or even of the desirability or otherwise, of many of the projects for which they are obtained. It may well be that dealing with this state of affairs is the single biggest challenge facing the Catholic and as well as Presbyterian Church in Pakistan at the present time.
There is the distinct but related question of examining Church-run institutions to see whom they serve and who benefits from them. It is by no means obvious that providing resources for the privileged will result in justice for the poor. At another level, the history of the Church in other countries shows that the progressive institutionalisation of Church personnel because of a greater and greater preoccupation with the maintenance of buildings and financial systems, has a disastrous effect on the linkage of Church ministers with the struggles of ordinary people. The result can often be an institutionalised Church existing for its own functionaries, leaving the people to find their own way in either popular devotionalism or various strands of fundamentalism.
Because of this over-involvement in institutions and the preoccupation of the leadership with financial matters, catechetics and liturgy always take second place to "development". An adult catechesis is not developed; liturgy is not inculturated; the celebration of the sacraments becomes minimalistic and perfunctory. The result can be a church of brick and cement but not of believing, worshipping people.
h) Ghettoisation or Witness:
Unquestionably, Christians in Pakistan are a marginalised minority. While it might be an exaggeration to say that they are a persecuted minority, it is nonetheless true that in a variety of ways, their rights are scarcely respected. Indeed as the events of Shantinagar and Khanewal indicate, and before that the murder of Manzoor Masih, they are in a real sense, under threat: tolerated by but scarcely integrated into society. On the other hand, the question that arises for the Church and in a particular way, for the Church leadership, is what kind of minority it wishes to be.
There is great evangelical potential in being a minority for developing a strong sense of identity and of differentiation from the surrounding society and its values system - leading in turn to a ministry of witness. On the other hand, there is the temptation to further consolidate the sense of ghettoisation that already exists. The separate electorate introduced during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq, is a case in point. Very quickly certain power groups saw how their vested interests could be promoted by collaborating with something that was introduced as an instrument of marginalisation and disenfranchisement. After a number of years the question arises as to; in what way if any, Christian politicians are different from their counterparts in society at large. If the emerging process is one of clientalism, opportunism and dependency - all conducted on the basis of chai-pani (hosting parties)- the very mirror image of the dysfunctional politics in the society at large, then in what way is it a leaven in the mass or a sign of an alternative society? Some will argue that things simply cannot be otherwise but if that is the case, then what is to be gained from simply going along with something so fundamentally flawed?
The very successful campaign on the issue of the religious clause in the identity card when the proposed sectarian legislation was defeated by grassroots action, illustrates the tremendous potential for identity and self-respect that lies in peaceful and dignified campaigning for what most people of goodwill immediately recognise as just and fair. Could not the same be true for such issues as return of schools, the teaching of Christian doctrine to Christian children in Christian schools, an integrated electorate, repeal of offensive laws such as Hadood and blasphemy ordinances?
i) GROWTH OR STAGNATION:
There is great potential in our Church. Three areas in particular are worth mentioning
(i) the ministry of women;
(ii) the development of a spirit of prayer, especially contemplative prayer and
(iii) outreach to people of other religions.
In areas such as participation in the Eucharist and in different kinds of groups as well as the religious education of children and vocations to the religious life, the strong Christian commitment of women is clearly evident. Moreover there is growing evidence of a tacit or implicit openness to the person of Jesus and the beauty of the vision of life he proposes, among educated women of the majority community. Given these and many other factors - among them basic justice and common sense - it has become strictly necessary to involve women in the process of thinking out new models of women's ministry in the Church.
While prayer is hugely important in peoples' lives, many think of it as a process of constructing ever longer and longer recitations replete with high-sounding clichÃ©s. Many of our Church ministers seem to be copying this practice as if "by their many words they may be heard" (Mt 6:7). There seems little evidence of actually teaching people how to pray; teaching them the value of silent communion with God.
The Church leadership seems to forget that in the Sufi tradition - which communicated the Islamic faith to the majority community - the emphasis was on interiorised religious experience.
The love people have for their faith barely translates into any effort to communicate the joy of this faith to others whether non-Christians or lapsed Christians. The Church does not exist for itself but for the sake of its mission. Theologically, mission - rooted in the Trinitarian life - is the prior reality. Remaining closed to mission and turning in on oneself leads to stagnation and selfishness. Even in the outreach to the Katchi Kohlis, Parkari Kohlis and Marwari-Bhils, the on-going long-term commitment of local Church personnel is all too rare - although there are some edifying examples. Local Church personnel who get involved in this work rarely receive the encouragement they deserve and need and are sometimes accused of abandoning "their own".
RENEWAL AND ADVANCE:
The truly great achievements of the past and present can launch us forward in hope. Building on the resourcefulness and vitality of the present, the challenges to be faced can be confronted with a sense of anticipation and adventure. In particular, attention will need to be paid to the following areas of Church life.
i. Education for personal and social transformation.
ii. Building structures of growing self-reliance.
iii. Teaching the Bible in its ecclesial and social transformational context.
iv. Clearly communicating that membership of the Church is not only a means of receiving but an opportunity to serve and develop a spirituality of willing service.
v. Recruiting and training of full-time lay pastoral workers with a higher standard of education, a more clearly defined pastoral and para-liturgical role and an adequate system of support.
vi. Putting the dialogue between faith and culture onto the theological agenda both in houses of theological formation and in the pastoral deliberations of the Church leadership.
vii. Devoting resources in a serious way to adult pastoral workers.
ix. Evaluating institutions and works primarily on the basis of how they serve the poor.
x. Setting realistic goals re. dependence on foreign money and growing financial self-sufficiency.
xi. Developing the ministry of women.
xii. Building on and enriching the sense of prayer in the community through teaching people deeper ways to pray, opening houses of prayer and becoming a recognisably praying community.
xiii. Missionary outreach - different to proselytism - to lapsed Christians and peoples of other faiths.
I would like here to mention the work of justice, the various campaigns for human rights often conducted in liaison with progressive groups among the majority community; and in particular, the efforts to organise and empower the sanitary workers. This is by no means an exhaustive list. A very necessary task for the work of renewal is to list these initiatives in a more complete way; to outline their approaches and to evaluate their potential for renewal. Taken in concert they may well represent the voice of the Holy Spirit for the future of our Church).
These are my views, based on some facts, but still the views of one person. Though necessarily limited in perspective and scope, they are the fruit of involvement, initiative, observation and dialogue; as well as much trial and error. By the nature of the case they are partial and open to critique and amplification. They are presented to facilitate discussion; in the form of an invitation to move towards a degree of consensus as to where we are and how we should like to move forward. Nothing remains the same and all things change; to refuse to move forward is to stagnate. But that moving forward has to be thoughtful, purposeful and spirit-filled.
The Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, Switzerland
July 13, 2005