Seeing the face of God in the enemy

The Church Times reports on Anglicans in Pakistan and Afghanistan who care for the sick and injured and the refugees of war, most of whom are Muslim, and many members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They continue to do this even in the midst of persecution and the constant threat of violence from the people they serve.

Christians in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan are providing healthcare to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda, the Bishop of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Mano Rumalshah, said last Friday, on a visit to the UK.

The Bishop appealed for the Anglican Communion to support the 100,000 Christians in the province, who are living in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

“Neither the laws of Pakistan nor the laws of Afghanistan function here in the tribal areas. For al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the godfather is the same: Osama bin Laden; the motivation is the same, and the strategy is the same. The only difference is that the Taliban are the locals, and al-Qaeda are the foreigners. They are our neighbours. In Bannu, every other person in the street I meet could be Taliban. They lead an ordinary life, until they are called to fight.”

Then the differences emerge. “The schools and the madrassas are training children from 12 years old and upwards to be suicide-bombers.” There were between 50 to 60 suicide attacks in Pakistan every couple of months, he said….

…In this volatile setting, Christians — 85 per cent of whom work in menial jobs — provide care for all in need. “We are trying to recreate God’s love as we have experienced it in Jesus Christ, and those people of God are the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Chris­tians, whoever they are. This is our heritage through mission, and it is our privilege. Our three or four health centres are services in diakonia….”

…“Our destiny is to exist as a Church and a people of God to encourage reconciled relationships. My chal­lenge is that our destiny is to embrace the enemy — to smell the sweat of the enemy — and that is why God has supported us and places us there. We have not gone underground, and I am proud of that.”

Churches in his diocese continued to receive threatening letters, Bishop Rumalshah said. “They say, ‘Either become a Muslim, leave, or be killed’ — that is the formula. There have been dozens of those over the last four or five years.”

Read the rest here.

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