Reconciliation in the context of poverty and terrorism was the theme of an international conference held recently by the Church of Pakistan in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab. The gathering, titled ‘Pilgrimage of Life towards Reconciliation in the Company of the Poor, Marginalized and Terrorists,’ drew about 55 people from Pakistan, Britain, Finland, Norway and the USA.
Convened by Church of Pakistan Moderator Samuel Azariah, Bishop of Raiwind, one of the church’s eight dioceses, the March 12-15 conference was designed to highlight reconciliation as Christians’ urgent mandate from God in a world where peoples and religions are alienated from each other by the massive injustice of destitution and by intensified violence motivated by religion. The theme was appropriate as well for Lent shortly before Holy Week, which focuses on the culmination of God’s reconciling work in Christ Jesus.
The conference was designed in large part by Church of Pakistan Coordinator Munawar Rumalshah, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Peshawar, who said that reconciliation has become the overriding passion of his life. Formed in 1970 to unite Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, the Church of Pakistan is the largest Christian church in Pakistan.
My address to the conference, ‘International and Theological Dimensions of Reconciliation as the Direction of God’s Mission,’ appears below, but circumstances prevented my delivering the talk in person. Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, was the other speaker invited to address international issues, but he was likewise unable to attend.
Speakers included the Rev. Dr. Charles Amjad-Ali, founder of the Christian Study Center in Rawalpindi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Justice and Christian Community at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Janice Price, World Mission Policy Adviser in the Church of England and co-author, with a body called the World Mission and Anglican Communion Panel, of World-Shaped Mission: Exploring New Frameworks for the Church of England in World Mission (London: Church House Publishing, 2012).
About 25 of the conference participants were from the Church of Pakistan, with three representatives from each diocese. Mission societies represented included: USPG (currently called Us), represented by Janette O’Neil and Naomi Herbert, CEO and Director of International Programs, respectively; the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM); the Norwegian Mission Society; and Norwegian Church Aid. A number of clergy and lay members of the Diocese of Los Angeles attended the conference. The companion mission agencies met with the Pakistani dioceses for several days in Lahore following the conference.
International and Theological Dimensions of Reconciliation as the Direction of God’s Mission: Address by the Rev. Canon Titus Presler, Th.D., D.D. at the Church of Pakistan Conference: ‘Pilgrimage of Life towards Reconciliation in the Company of the Poor, Marginalized and Terrorists.’ Lahore, Pakistan, 12-15 March 2016
Videos of the talk: Part 1 (26 minutes) Part 2 (21 minutes)
See also World Council of Churches article on the conference, written from the perspective of the mission companionship between Norwegian churches and the Church of Pakistan, and posted on the Anglican Communion News Service website. Dr. Sarah Safdar, who is cited in the article, is a colleague of mine in Peshawar and a member of the Edwardes College Board of Governors.
It is an honor and privilege to address you in Lahore on the theme of reconciliation from a Christian perspective, my particular topic being ‘International and Theological Dimensions of Reconciliation as the Direction of God’s Mission.’ I am grateful to Moderator Bishop Samuel Azariah for the invitation. I thank Bishop Mano Rumalshah, who is coordinating the conference, and Bishop Humphrey Peters, with whom I have worked so closely in Peshawar, as they have warmly welcomed the prospect of my presence. I regret very much that circumstances prevent my being with you in person for the conference, the more so that I like being in Pakistan, enjoy its people of all religions, and love the Christian community that is so faithful in that land.
Part 1: A Reflection on the Conference Theme
You have chosen a striking title for this conference: ‘Pilgrimage of Life towards Reconciliation in the Company of the Poor, Marginalized and Terrorists.’ The phrase ‘Pilgrimage of Life towards Reconciliation’ emphasizes that reconciliation is a process, not a single event. We all know from our personal lives that particular reconciling events – say, between parent and child, or between siblings, or between spouses, or between colleagues at work – do not generally heal relations fully or immediately. Rather, they inaugurate a process that may take months or even years, with steps backward as well as forward. Seeing this process as a pilgrimage takes it beyond psychology and locates it in its proper spiritual and theological home. A pilgrim is a person who travels in search of a deeper experience of God. Thus a life pilgrimage toward reconciliation is a pilgrimage into a deeper knowledge of God and a deeper experience of God, a pilgrimage in which reconciliation becomes a lens through which we see the light of God. Read More…