Friday, June 12, 2009

Frontier church ministers to Taliban and Christian alike

From the Church Times in England

CHRISTIANS in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan are providing healthcare to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda, the Bishop of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Mano Rumalshah (pictured), said last Friday, on a visit to the UK.

The Bishop appealed for the Anglican Communion to support the 100,000 Christians in the province, who are living in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

“Neither the laws of Pakistan nor the laws of Afghanistan function here in the tribal areas. For al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the godfather is the same: Osama bin Laden; the motivation is the same, and the strategy is the same. The only difference is that the Taliban are the locals, and al-Qaeda are the foreigners. They are our neighbours. In Bannu, every other person in the street I meet could be Taliban. They lead an ordinary life, until they are called to fight.”

Then the differences emerge. “The schools and the madrassas are training children from 12 years old and upwards to be suicide-bombers.” There were between 50 to 60 suicide attacks in Pakistan every couple of months, he said.

One of his clergy, in the North Waziristan region, had described how the community commissioned a young man as a suicide-bomber. “Prayers are said, and the Holy Qur’an placed on his head, and on top of that a metal key to symbolise the key to paradise. It is a day of celebration for the community.”

In this volatile setting, Christians — 85 per cent of whom work in menial jobs — provide care for all in need. “We are trying to recreate God’s love as we have experienced it in Jesus Christ, and those people of God are the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Chris tians, whoever they are. This is our heritage through mission, and it is our privilege. Our three or four health centres are services in diakonia.”

He spoke of the work of six Lutheran women in a hall that they share with an al-Qaeda camp. “They are working in an area where even the bravest of the brave would shudder to go. We clean the wounds of the children, and that gives us the right to be of service there. But how do we serve others if we do not get support? This is why I yell at our global Christian siblings for support.”

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