Archbishop of Canterbury to visit quake-hit Pakistan
Putting the arguments of the Anglican Communion behind him for a while, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is to visit Pakistan next week, in the wake of huge concern over the continuing impact of the devastating Kashmiri earthquake one month ago.
The United Nations and international development and church agencies are continuing to push for more aid to the region. 'The world has stopped looking, but we must not stop caring', one NGO representative told Ekklesia.
Dr Williams says: 'This is a crucial time to be visiting Pakistan. I know that there are many concerns about those who may have survived the recent earthquake but whose future is still threatened by the onset of extremely cold weather conditions. I hope to learn about the things being done to transfer aid to people in the direst of needs.'
Christian-Muslim relations, the controversial blasphemy laws and the situation of minority communities are also live issues at the moment.
The Archbishop commented: 'This is also a very important time for Pakistan's faith communities - the good relations between Christians and Muslims in many parts of the UK and in Pakistan provide a platform for building further and for eradicating mistrust and misunderstanding. I am pleased to be able to visit Muslim students, scholars and leaders in the Islamic University of Islamabad and elsewhere.'
During his visit Dr Williams will pay courtesy calls on the President of Pakistan and the country's Prime Minister together with other senior politicians and will visit those recovering from the recent earthquake disaster.
The Archbishop's tour will take in meetings with congregations and visits to churches and church projects and he will lead a retreat for the Bishops of the Province. Towards the end of the visit Dr Williams will preside and preach at a special service in Lahore to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the consecration of Bishop Malik, head of the united Church of Pakistan.
The Archbishop has also accepted an invitation to deliver two lectures at the Islamic University in Islamabad. He will meet with local Muslim religious leaders, thinkers, and scholars. He will also visit a Muslim madrassa - a religious school - during the course of the trip.
Meanwhile President Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan will appeal to the international community and donor agencies for 5 billion dollars in relief assistance at the upcoming international donors conference, to be used for reconstruction and rehabilitation of quake-affected people.
The US multilateral aid agency Church World Service has marked the one-month anniversary of the Pakistan earthquake by expanding its aid efforts to respond further to the needs of women survivors.
Hundreds gathered around Capitol Hill in Washington DC in a prayer vigil last week, to remember those killed in the 8 October disaster. The crowds, holding lamps, prayed silently and each removed a layer of clothing as a mark of their sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of survivors now facing the brutal Himalayan winter without adequate clothing.
Similar vigils were held in over 30 cities around the world as a mark of remembrance to the victims and the survivors of the devastating quake.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christian peer calls for Iraq helicopters to aid quake zone; Faith groups respond rapidly to South Asia quake tragedy; Pope calls for massive aid to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan; US Episcopalians aid victims in Pakistan, India and Central; Kashmir quake aid crosses communal and belief boundaries]