Archbishop of Canterbury in Pakistan says local Christians are ‘a people under siege’
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that the Christians of Pakistan are a people under siege and has joined calls for their churches to be protected and for them to be able to worship in safety. “Freedom of worship is a universal human right around the world, and all countries need to pay attention to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, condemning the “revolting lynching” of a pregnant Pakistani woman who was stoned to death by her family in front of hundreds of people outside the Lahore High Court, the Archbishop told The Times of London: “I was utterly horrified and every Pakistani I have spoken to is also horrified. It [the stoning] was in no sense a punishment, but a revolting lynching.”
The woman had married a man other than the one who had been arranged for her to marry, a police source quoting her father as saying it had been an “honour killing”.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE HOLY LAND
It has been good news that Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have accepted an invitation by Pope Francis, issued in Bethlehem during his recent Middle East tour, to join him at the Vatican to pray for peace. The surprise initiative by the Pope conveys hope of a renewed effort at reaching a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. If the Church can play a significant part in this, it will be all to the good. During his visit, Pope Francis said: “We all know how urgent the need for peace is, not only for Israel but also for the entire region. May efforts and energies be increasingly directed to the pursuit of a just and lasting solution to the conflicts that have caused so much suffering.”
From a more purely ecumenical perspective, the meeting and subsequent 25th May Jerusalem Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew bring the hope of further fruitful dialogue. The two Church leaders referred to their meeting as marking “a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity”. Indeed, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, has commented that the need for “respectful diversity within the Church” had been affirmed at the WCC’s 10th Assembly last year, which had been attended by both Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders, along with representatives of other Churches.
In their Joint Declaration, Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch reaffirmed that “the theological dialogue does not seek a theological lowest common denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather about deepening one’s grasp of the whole truth that Christ has given to his Church, a truth that we never cease to understand better as we follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings”.
Dr Tveit also saw the meeting and its fruit as strengthening the Church in the region and referred to the two leaders’ expressed commitment to interreligious dialogue as having been of particular importance in a setting such as the Middle East. They invited all Christians “to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other religious traditions”, adding: “Indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict.”
The positive messages that have come from the visit of Pope Francis to the Middle East create a most welcome opportunity for progress towards both peace in the region and deeper ecumenical engagement, as well as giving impetus to interfaith understanding, which is so much needed in the world today.
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Letters to the Editor
Love of God and neighbour
Further to Damian Shorten’s letter (Gazette, 9th May), we are to put the first and greatest commandment first and that means putting into practice what Christ told us.
Christ told a man who expressed concern about how many will be saved basically to mind his own business (i.e. leave it to God), but, instead, to concern himself with his own walk.
We are told not to judge and, as one sermon I heard put it, in judging others, we expose our lack of faith that God is real and involved in resolving things.
Rather than concerning ourselves with what other denominations say to their flocks, we must concern ourselves with what is communicated in our own patch by us. Before removing the speck, take the log out of your own eye, comes to mind.
If a person holds an entirely different view to ours, the natural human reaction is to defend ourselves and to try to convince the assailant to change his/her view. I believe Christ is telling us to do something different. He is saying turn the other cheek; get on with your own walk.
Take a look at Pope Francis, a man simply living the Gospel and through doing so, he is making a phenomenal difference for God in the world. Let us have the integrity to take his lead and do likewise in our Church.
Jonathan Pyle Crinkill House Birr Co. Offaly
Mr Bracken asks why the Church of Ireland now treats remarriage after divorce in a way that does not fit with the thinking behind Canon 31 (Gazette, 23rd May).
The Chair of the Church and Society Commission replied (same Gazette date) that Jesus set out a clear ideal for marriage, but in his teaching also made provision for circumstances in which divorce is “applicable” (sic). Virtually all scholars believe that St Mark’s is the oldest of the four Gospels and the one used as a source by St Matthew and St Luke.
Mark (10: 7f) shows Jesus teaching unambiguously that remarriage is adulterous, and Luke agrees. The ‘Matthaean exception’ (Matthew 5: 31ff and 19: 9) is famously interesting to those who take seriously the actual words of Scripture, but it is a moot point whether this is the opinion of Jesus or simply of Matthew.
I suspect that Mr Dorrian’s over-simplified view of remarriage and divorce has been offered to Mr Bracken in the hope that he will accept it as the whole truth and not recall other issues on which the Church has changed its mind (after due discussion and perhaps divine prompting) and that there are still serious debatable issues among us today.
The faithful today have the same right to know that there are different sides to any contentious issue and to make an informed choice. It is particularly dangerous to ‘prove’ something by reference to one scriptural passage, while ignoring other passages and Jesus’ message as a whole.
Charles Kenny (Canon) Belfast BT9
I refer to my letter published in the Gazette of 23rd May and the brief statement accompanying it issued by the Revd Adrian Dorrian of the Church and Society Commission, in which he states that Canon 31 defines marriage as “a union permanent and lifelong, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman”.
Mr Dorrian further states that the Canon allows for the remarriage of divorced persons and gives the impression that, because the Canon was amended to allow for such marriages, these unions then fall within the above definition.
If a marriage is “a union permanent and lifelong … till death do them part”, then the remarriage of a divorced person is, and will always be, completely irreconcilable with this definition and to suggest otherwise does not make sense.
The definition is an absolute and marriage is either within the definition or not. No middle ground, such as it referring simply to an “ideal”, as Mr Dorrian does, is possible within the terms of the definition.
Tim Bracken Cork
The 10th June is the deadline for volunteers for the Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association’s (NIMMA) book about the children of mixed marriages in the Province.
The paperback, financed by The Big Lottery Fund, will give at least 10 individuals the chance to tell – in their own words – of their experiences as the children of people who put love before traditional allegiances.
Under the working title, Both Sides Now, the book is being produced and published by NIMMA and is a sequel to a book about mixed marriage couples, Mixed Emotions, which was published two years ago.
The project is about creating tolerance and acceptance of mixed marriage and increasing awareness of it – particularly among the young – and we propose to use the book as part of an educational programme that will, hopefully, involve all local schools.
Individuals interested in taking part in the project should contact NIMMA on Belfast 028 9023 5444 or email: email@example.com.
All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Ken Dunn Chairman, NIMMA 28 Bedford Street Belfast BT2 7FE
NI Victims Contract
The recently launched Victims’ Contract, under the auspices of Innocent Victims United (IVU), sets a benchmark for the future advancement of issues concerning victims and ‘the Past’ in Northern Ireland and we have written to the leaders of the four main Churches requesting their feedback in respect of the Contract’s content.
We are hopeful that the principles contained – which have a strong moral and Christian-based foundation – will be given support.
This agreement is not with IVU but with those individuals who are the surviving families of those who have been victims of murder or those suffering lifelong injury, whether physical or psychological, together with their carers.
The Victims’ Contract can be signed online (www. ipetitions.com/petition/ charter-for-innocent-victimsof- terrorism).
Kenneth Donaldson Innocent Victims United c/o 14 Derryraghan Road Cavantillycormick Coa, Ballinamallard Co. Fermanagh BT94 2EH
The General Synod
I am disappointed that nothing appears to be happening with regard to a senior member of the Royal Family being invited to the General Synod, a matter I raised six years ago to complement the splendid visit and contribution made by President Mary McAleese in Galway back in 2008.
I wonder has any progress been made with regard to the possibility of such a visit. The wheels of God grind slowly but, in comparison to the Church, they move at Ferrari proportions.
However, now that the Synod is to meet in Armagh for the foreseeable future, perhaps this will help with planning ahead for a Royal visit.
I wish all those many, many people who give so much to the life and witness of our Church, clergy and laity, and the Gazette, God’s richest blessing.
John F. A. Bond (The Very Revd) The Rectory 49 Rectory Gardens Broughshane Ballymena BT42 4LF
New booklet on Dublin’s Whitechurch Moravian burial ground
Ecumenical response to Pastor McConnell controversy