Interfaith Harmony, why one sided? By Bishop T. Nasir

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As a Pakistani national or/and subject, I am proud of my President General Pervez Musharraf’s speech at UN General Assembly on Interfaith co-operation., peace and harmony among all major religions in the world. I know my President’s moderate views on religious issues and his quest for peace, co-operation, harmony and understanding between major religions of the world. I support President General Musharraf’s quest for peace and prosperity and his desire to avoid the so-called “Clash of Civilization”. I also fully support the rights of Palestinians, the Kashmiri people, and the rights of Muslims in all parts of the world. And yet I was disappointed that on such a big forum the plight of Christians and other none Muslim people was totally ignored.
Pakistan is certainly the only Muslim country where religious minorities are tolerated and accepted as human beings with some strings, but what about other Muslim countries? First of all there are hardly any none Muslim citizen in most of the Islamic countries. The tolerance for none Muslim countries has considerably decreased over the last few years. In all Islamic countries from Indonesia to Morocco, there is a significant change of attitude towards none Muslims especially towards Christians. We hear killings of Christians in Nigeria almost every other day. (thanks to the policies of United States and Europe. Had they supported the state of “Biafrra” back in early sixties and supported General Ajuko, The African Continent would have had an independent Christian state and today they would not been subjected to mass killings by the Muslim majority of Nigeria. I still remember the speech of General Ajuko that he made under pressure of the United States and other Western countries in summer of 1966. His words, “from this day the state of Biafrra ceases to exist”. This sentence still haunts the Christians of Nigeria who are being mercilessly killed by their Muslim country men.) The agony of people of Southern Sudan, Chad and many more Muslim states of African continent. Christian population in Islamic countries is less than 4.57 Percent of the total population of Islamic countries. This includes the 30 percent Christian population in Albania, 46 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 30 percent Christian population in Lebanon, 40 percent in Nigeria, only. There are no Christians in five Islamic countries and rest of the Islamic countries has Christian population from 0.4 percent to 10 percent in rest of the Islamic world. Surprisingly Pakistan claims to have only 1.58 percent Christians. If we take out the Christian population of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon and Nigeria, where Christians have some weightage, rest of the population in Islamic countries stands at 2.12 percent. In Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries, Christians are not given even the right of “Private Worship” The Holy Bible is “banned”, churches can not be built and the Christian population is ignored and faces extreme religious discrimination. On the other hand, in so-called Christian countries that includes the United States of America and most of Europe Muslims are free to worship openly, build Mosques, and Islamic Centers.
What is happening with Christian population in these countries is not hidden from any one. The quest for “Interfaith Peace Harmony and co-operation” stands meaningless. In Pakistan we face problems in building churches. We need an “No Objection Certificate” from the Local Government and they only issue such certificate with the consent of local “Mullah”. There is a ceiling for Christians in every government department laid down by the Constitution. No matter how qualified a Christian maybe, he/she can not go beyond the laid down ceiling of our citizenship. As I said earlier that “Interfaith Peace, Harmony and Co-operation” or “dialogue stands meaningless because the Islamic countries will not give any status to Christians what to talk of “Rights”. I have no hesitation in stating that what ever little we have in Pakistan, it is given as “Privilege” not as “Right” and we must understand and know the difference between Right and Privilege. I do feel bad when I see dead Palestinians and Kashmiri people. Yet I feel lost when it comes to the miserable condition of Christians. In my understanding, the Heads of Islamic States are trying and teaching to “Clap” with one hand. They seek equal rights all over the world and if they are denied they pick up the arms. In this situation how can there be peace, harmony, co-operation, mainly between Islam and Christianity? Talking Interfaith Peace, Harmony and co-operation is very easy but is the Islamic leadership and Muslims as a “Civilization” ready to accept and tolerate the “Religious Minorities” in there countries? I have no right to ask any head of Islamic state, yet I have the right or privilege to ask my President, if he is willing to offer equality to me and my community in Pakistan and enhance the ”ceiling” of my citizenship?
I wish my President had spoken on the plight of Christian minority in Pakistan and other Islamic countries. Without speaking on miserable condition of Christians in Islamic countries, all such speeches and beautiful words are meaningless. (For me any way)
In May 2005, I announced my candidacy for the office of the President of Pakistan and despite sincere advice from my friends, I will try every possible means to qualify for the candidacy for the office of the President of Pakistan in year 2007. I fully understand that the Pakistani Constitution clearly states that the President of Pakistan will be “an adult male Muslim”. I know to get this clause changed I need a law to be framed by the parliament of Pakistan, in which there are only four Christian members and I did not vote for any one of them. The Parliament of Pakistan will never abrogate this clause. The Supreme Court of Pakistan can be the next hope, yet I know that my “Constitutional Petition” will not be admitted. Yet I am not deterred. I will file a “Constitutional Petition” against the “Clause” that closes the doors of my rights as citizen of Pakistan. If the Supreme Court does not admit my “Constitutional Petition” to abrogate the “Constitutional Clause”, it has to tell me where does my citizenship ends and my status of a “Subject” of Pakistan starts. To the best of my understanding, this is going to be a “test case” for every Pakistani who talks and seeks “Interfaith Peace, Harmony and Co-operation”. I really don’t care what the American Constitution says on this issue, can a Muslim be President of the United States? That is not my problem, my concern is the ceiling of my citizenship in Pakistan. If my citizenship ends as a useless member of Parliament, no body has right to preach Interfaith Peace Harmony and Co-operation, not even the President of Pakistan.

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