At the Friday Noonday Eucharist here at Edwardes College in Peshawar yesterday we prayed for the departed during the Prayers of the People, as many Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Orthodox do around the world:
We remember all those who have died in the fellowship and faith of Christ, especially . . .
We commend all [people] to your unfailing love, that in them your will may be fulfilled; and we rejoice at the faithful witness of your saints in every age, that we may share with them in your eternal Kingdom.
In the pause we prayed:
We lift up before you the 3,000 people who were killed in the attacks that occurred on 9/11. And we lift up before you the 35,000 people who have been killed in terrorist insurgency since then in this country of Pakistan. Gather them to yourself, we pray, and be with all who continue to mourn the violent deaths of those they love. We pray for the outbreak of justice and peace in this suffering land and in Afghanistan.
In the international dynamics affecting Afghanistan and Pakistan – dynamics involving the USA, the so-called Coalition Forces, the United Nations, and myriad political and economic interests – and in the anguish of Talibanization and political turmoil in Pakistan, such praying can seem, on one side, mere ineffectual words.
On another side – the side of engaged faith and bold hope – such praying is vital. It keeps us centered where we need to be, which is in the stream of God’s challenging and transforming work in the world.
Context helps. Edwardes’ tiny chapel holds about 35 people when packed. Chairs set up on the verandah outside hold another 35. Yesterday additional chairs had to be set up in the driveway as the overflow continued to grow. 85 people is not a huge crowd. But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, having most of the 1st– and 2nd-year Christian students attending the weekly college Eucharist is not only encouraging but inspiring. (3rd– and 4th-year students arrive in the coming two weeks.)
Meanwhile in another part of the campus the Muslim students who constitute the vast majority in this college of 2,800 gathered at the same time for Friday Prayers. I know that the anguish of the nation and the world at this time was in their hearts and minds as well.
Significantly, the time of the Eucharist is guided by the time of the Friday Prayers. Edwardes is an institution of the Church of Pakistan, and the timing of the major weekly Christian liturgy is determined by the timing of the major Muslim liturgy.