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Handle with care militant Islam, British diplomat warns: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 6. January 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam, Terrorism.
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Justin Bedford (right) speaking to Vatican Radio. Photo: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The EU should tread warily when dealing with militant Islam and not be seen as supporting Christian minorities in the Muslim world, the deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy to the Holy See said last week.  “We need to be very careful as to how the West, and the EU as part of the ‘western construct’, approaches the question of religions,” Justin Bedford told Vatican Radio on Jan 12.

His remarks come in contrast to comments made by the Second Church Estates Commission to Parliament on Jan 18, who condemned the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world and denounced the killing of the Governor of the Punjab this month—murdered for his support for Pakistan’s oppressed Christian minority.

Asked to comment on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jan 10 address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican, where the pope voiced his concerns over the persecution of Christians in many Muslim majority countries, Mr. Bedford said the speech showed the pope’s belief in “protecting religious freedom as a fundamental human right.”

When questioned about what steps the EU might take to support or protect Christians in the Middle East, Mr. Bedford said “we need to be very careful as to how the West, and the EU as part of the ‘western construct’, approaches the question of religions.”

If the “West took the concept of Christianity under its umbrella,” it could “provide a reason for extremists to continue to divide those societies…we would seek to avoid that, if possible,” he said.

“If this question is discussed in the EU we would need to find an approach which did not divide societies, but sought to unite them and present solidarity between Christians and Muslims as they confront extremists.”

Speaking in response to a question from the member for Gillingham and Rainham, Mr. Rehman Chishti (Cons.), as to “what representations the Church Commissioners have made in support of Christians in Pakistan?”, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry, said “It is a sad and terrible fact that Christian minorities who have lived peacefully in Muslim countries for generations are finding themselves subject to increasingly violent persecution.”

“Churches have recently been attacked in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, and the assassination in Pakistan of Salmaan Taseer for defending a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death was particularly horrible,” Mr. Baldry said.

Dr. Rowan Williams, Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore and “the Christian community as a whole in Pakistan” were “working hard to foster inter-faith collaboration in Pakistan during this time of difficulty,” he said.

The murder of Governor Taseer was a “tragedy for Pakistan,” whose people appeared to have forgotten the maxim of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “the father of Pakistan, who said: ‘you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship’.”

“What I suspect every Member of this House hopes for is that there shall be freedom of religion throughout the world,” Mr. Baldry said, “and I am sure that, as a Chamber, we will continue to campaign for that wherever we have the opportunity.”

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