Anglican Communion Head Highlights Christian Solidarity, Interfaith Dialogue in Pakistan

In Pakistan – where disasters, poverty and interfaith conflicts are prevalent – the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has highlighted Christian solidarity and interfaith dialogue.

In Pakistan – where disasters, poverty and interfaith conflicts are prevalent – the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has highlighted Christian solidarity and interfaith dialogue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, kicked-off his eight-day visit to Pakistan on Tuesday following his comment last week saying that now is "a highly important period for Pakistan." At the invitation of the Church of Pakistan, Williams is visiting the Church and also the refugees to learn about the aftermath of last month’s deadly earthquake.

The Archbishop began his trip in Pakistan with a service at Christ Church in Rawalpindi. By using the parable of the boy whose five loaves and two fishes fed the five thousand, Williams spoke about how Christians offer service and witness to others even though what they have are small and insufficient for themselves, according to a report by the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS).

In the midst of Pakistan’s recovery from the devastating 7.6-magnitude quake, which left more than 73,000 deaths and 3 million homeless, Williams encouraged Pakistani Christians to express solidarity to one another.

"So however small the gifts we feel we are giving, however small the influence we may sometimes feel we may have, give what we have to Jesus and he knows what to do with it," he said, as quoted by ACNS. "When we offer our service and compassion and step out from the crowd, we don't feel very safe... but it is those acts of generosity where we take a step towards love and compassion when Jesus can most use what we give."

On Wednesday, at a tented village on the outskirts of Islamabad where 10,000 refugees lived, Williams paid tribute to the humanitarian operation.

"I was very moved to see how efficiently the displaced victims of the earthquake disaster are being cared for,” he said. “Equally impressive were the plans for the reconstruction of communities and for moving people away from dependency with practical help to rebuild their lives."

Williams then spoke of interfaith dialogue with the Muslims in the wake of the burning of Christian settlements in Sangla Hill, west of Lahore, capital of Punjab province two weeks, ACNS reported.

To an audience of students and academics at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, he lectured on "What is Christianity?" and explained some of the core beliefs which Christians hold together with explanations of some popular misconceptions.

At a round table discussion, Williams said, "Dialogue is not debate; dialogue is not proselytism; dialogue is not the attempt to persuade; dialogue is not negotiation. When I enter dialogue with someone of another religious tradition ... I am not out to secure agreement, but to secure understanding," according to ACNS.

"An honest and constructive dialogue leads us to go away thinking ‘Now I begin to see a little better what it is like to hold those views, pray those prayers and to live those lives.’"

Williams also outlined some possible proposals for a Christian-Muslim Forum the Church has been working on in the United Kingdom and potential agreements that seek to protect minority communities.

"Dialogue is possible, dialogue is necessary and, happily, by the grace of God, dialogue is above all, actual," he added, according to ACNS. “The very fact of our meeting this afternoon is, I hope and pray, a sign of how that dialogue can and will unfold in the years ahead.”

Williams has traveled to Pakistan accompanied by his wife, Jane, and by the Anglican Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Rev. Michael Jackson, who chairs the Network of Interfaith Concerns for the Anglican Communion.

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