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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

careless words...

Monday, September 25, 2006

I arrived back from Pakistan late on Wednesday night feeling pretty rough health-wise and exhausted from an intense 3 weeks! The next day was my youngest's third birthday (which I was semi-conscious for!) and then I had a day of rest before the birthday party!!

After a couple of early nights, I'm feeling a bit more human today so thought I'd put fingers to keys to post my first 'Pakistan' related blog entry!

What else could I blog about first other than the fall-out from the Pope's lecture delivered at the University of Regensburg on 12th September, the day I arrived in Pakistan's capital city, Islamabad (the full text of the Pope's lecture can be read 'here'). All in all, it made for an 'interesting' and somewhat uneasy final week in Pakistan!

It's easy in the West to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech (as I passionately do) but fail to see the consequences of exploiting that right. Just two days after delivering his speech, the Pakistan Parliament had passed a motion condemning the Pope's comments and the Key Christian leaders in Islamabad had convened in an emergency session to discuss their response, fearful of the coming repercussions for their communities. I attended St Thomas' church in Islamabad on Sunday 17th September, five days after the speech, and arrived to find a sizeable armed police presence to protect the worshipping Christians. So, was this all just overkill?

Experience shows that these precautions were necessary. After the publication of the Danish cartoons earlier in the year, several churches and Christian schools in Pakistan were attacked. In the North-West Frontier Province I visited one such school, teaching junior through to high school level, which was attacked by an angry mob of 100+ people wielding chains in reaction to the cartoons, striking terror into the young children at the school. Any perceived attack on Islam from the West is viewed in Pakistan (and other Muslim countries) as a 'Christian' attack (maybe some of the reason for this lies in our own shameful history), and so the indigenous Christian community is considered a fair target for reprisals.

Of course, the irony pointed out by Kester 'here' is not lost on me, but this is little consolation for Christian (and other minority) communities in Muslim countries, who suffer the backlash of Western 'free speech'. Yes, we do need to stand up for fundamental human rights, such as the right to free speech, and we do need to challenge violence wherever it rears its ugly head, but we also need to remember that with rights comes responsibilities. "Everything is permissible for me", wrote the apostle Paul, "but not everything is beneficial." Before we carelessly exercise our right to free speech maybe we should more carefully consider who will pay the price...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:55 PM

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