British churches commit to Pakistan and reject war on terror rhetoric

By staff writers
January 2, 2008

The Church of Scotland has resolutely rejected the 'war on terror' language being used in some political quarters in discussions about the future of Pakistan following the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto.

Other churches and church related development agencies have also re-committed to humanitarian and spiritual support for the country in its hour of need.

Defying the belligerent rhetoric of some neocons and the religious right, the Kirk has called instead for a "focus on democracy" in the battered nation. The comments come as campaigners for political freedom and social justice in Pakistan are expressing dismay that Bhutto's PPP party intends to continue to be a dynastic organisation.

The Church of Scotland's rejection of a ‘war on terror’ discourse came in a New Year's Eve message arguing that the priority for Pakistan now must be the restoration of "credible democratic institutions and the establishment of an independent judiciary."

Ms Morag Mylne, the convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, said: “Given the nature of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, in some ways it is unsurprising that discussion has focussed on Pakistan’s role in the ‘war on terror’."

She continued: "Real security, though, comes through justice, peace and understanding. We have to remember that the most important element in Pakistan’s future must be the reestablishment of a political and judicial system that is capable of working toward justice and peace for all Pakistanis.”

Meanwhile, Ms Christine Elliot, the Methodist Church's Secretary for Asia and the Pacific, declared: "Thursday 27 December was a very sad day, especially for the people of Pakistan. The shocking killing of Benazir Bhutto has been a desperate blow for the fragile hope of a new democratic government in the elections planned for 8 January 2008."

Ms Elliot went on: "The situation in the country over the next hours and days will be very precarious, particularly in the Sindh province. Our partners in Pakistan are concerned that civil war may erupt and that military rule will be re-imposed further - there is a desperate feeling that it will be really difficult to recover from this tragedy. We have been asked to pray with and for the people of Pakistan, for peace and stability, and hope that others will join us in this task."

A staff representative from the Church of Scotland will travel to Pakistan later this month to work with a local partner church in further developing the relationship between the Church of Scotland and Church of Pakstan.

The Rev Colin Renwick, convener of the Church of Scotland World Mission Council, explained: “The Church of Scotland has many links in Pakistan, having played a historically important role in Christian mission in that country.

Anglican societies including USPG also have very strong links in Pakistan, through Bishop Mano Rumallshah, a former general secretary. Bishop Michael Nazir Ali of Rochester, former Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan, was a one-time general secretary of the Church Mission Society.

The support of churches and development agencies is regarded as significant for those working to sustain civil society and institutions as Pakistan seeks to address its current wounds.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.