Posted by: Titus Presler | September 23, 2014

Church of Pakistan moderator addresses Episcopal House of Bishops

It is salutary that the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has heard a report on the situation of the Church of Pakistan from the united church’s moderator, Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Diocese of Raiwind.  An account of his remarks at the group’s current gathering in Taiwan appears in an Episcopal News Service article, titled “Bishops explore ministry challenges in Asia” and filed on Sept. 19.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the article: 

Bishop Samuel Azariah, moderator of the Church of Pakistan (United), told the bishops about the life of his church in a country where Christians account for 1.5 percent of the 189 million Pakistanis.


He said Pakistan is “in continuous religious disputes” within itself, and with India and Afghanistan.

“The misuse and abuse of religion has not only impacted our economy and our relationships, but has also introduced a phase of religious militancy” and especially one that vows to spread Islam, he said. “That is the reality of the context we live in and very soon this is going to hit you, my brothers and my sisters, even in the United States.”

Azariah added a caution: “I’m not saying that we need to fight Islam; what I am saying is that we need to recognize that reality” and prepare for it by learning about Islam and working to improve interfaith relations, and always searching for reconciliation.

“Islam will be the dominant religion in your own dioceses sooner or later that you will have to negotiate with,” he told the bishops. “You will have large populations of Muslims around you in your areas to whom you will have to pastor to and how will you do that?”

In his context, Azariah said he rejects the ideas of loving one’s enemies, saying instead he prefers to advocate loving one’s neighbors in a way that aims “to recognize, to respect in humbleness and with patience, the quality of otherness that my neighbor carries within himself or within herself.”

Meanwhile, Azariah issued a call for deeper relations between his church and others in the Anglican Communion, especially in terms of educational partnerships and development.

“We want to be in relationship; not a relationship of dependency. We do not want to be a project of any church but in a relationship of equal brothers and sisters and disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Notes:

• The House of Bishops is meeting in Taiwan because the Diocese of Taiwan is one of the constituent dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and the bishops are committed to meeting in a diocese outside the United States once every three years.  Other such dioceses include those in Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela.

• “United” in parentheses after the name of the Church of Pakistan in the article refers to the fact that the formation of the Church of Pakistan in 1970 brought together Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians in a single church body.  Like the united churches in Bangladesh, North India, and South India, the Church of Pakistan is a full member of the Anglican Communion as well as of the global fellowships Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed churches.

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