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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!

defending the sacred...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Further to my last post, I received another email this morning, part of which reads...

"It all started at Shanty Nagar, Punjab, then the Christian community fell victim of Islamic extremism in Shangla Hills, the Christian community of Kasoor was attacked by the miscreants, and now a massive attack on a large number of Christians in Korian and Gojra.

In all the incidents Christian community and / or individuals have been falsely accused of desecrating the Holy Quran, thus once again the discriminatory BLASPHEMY LAWS have been misused against the peaceful Pakistani Christians in their own country, Pakistan.

According to News Reports thousands of Muslims, spurred by banned militant group, attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Gojra, on Saturday, burning more than hundred houses, and 7 people which include 2 minor children were also burnt alive, after report surfaced that some Christians had desecrated the Holy Quran."

I know I'm on sensitive ground here but I can't help but comment on this, having lived in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and witnessed first-hand how Christians live in almost constant fear of such attacks. The Pakistan Christian community has strongly denied the charges of desecrating the Holy Quran, which led to the events of the last week, and this seems to have fallen on deaf ears with no due process.

I'm not a Moslem myself, and therefore have a limited understanding of Islam from my own experience, reading and Moslem friends. But, even so, I confess to finding it difficult to reconcile such actions of extremists with the writings in the Quran they claim to follow. Every Surah (chapter) in the Quran begins, "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful" - the fundamental tenet of Islamic faith. My struggle is that even if people had desecrated the Holy Quran (again, it's worth stating that this is strongly denied) how could a Most Gracious and Merciful God sanction the indiscriminate burning of entire villages and murder of innocent people as a just response? Surely God's grace and mercy far exceeds the importance of a book, even one as sacred as the Quran (or Bible for that matter).

Interestingly, in the same week that these awful events have been taking place, an art installation involving the Bible caused controversy in Scotland. Naturally, there were complaints from people who were offended by this apparent defacing of Scripture (personally, I didn't really have a problem with it but can see why it could have offended others), but I didn't read of any villages being burned to the ground in response.

Once again, I know I'm on sensitive ground, but when we are faced with such injustices and such extreme persecution of innocent people surely it isn't good enough to brush it under the carpet without comment for fear of offending the guilty. The church in Pakistan has condemned these attacks and we ought to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in doing the same. I'm equally convinced that many Moslems feel just as sickened by the events of the last week in Pakistan and would want to distance themselves from these ugly forms of extremism.

As a comment on my previous post pointed out, the challenge for the Christian community is to avoid the temptation to retaliate, and we must pray for the strength to forgive and, by doing so, demonstrate the gospel in action. That's my prayer for the Christian community in Pakistan; but I'm also praying for their safety and for the Most Gracious and Merciful God to convict those who would cause such suffering in the name of religion and supposedly defending the sacred.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:50 AM


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