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Pakistani Anglican bishop warns against foreign intervention in Syria: Anglican Ink, Sept 7, 2013 September 7, 2013

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Dr Alexander John Malik

The former Bishop in Lahore, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Malik has urged the United States, France and Britain not to use its military might to strike Syria.

Speaking to journalists on 7 September 2013, Dr. Malik said a Western attack on the Assad regime in retaliation for its alleged use of chemical weapons against the rebels would make a terrible situation worse.

Read it all at Anglican Ink.

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Bishop of Lahore installed: The Church of England Newspaper, October 6, 2012 p 6. October 11, 2012

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The Diocese of Lahore installed the Rt. Rev. Irfan Jamil as its ninth bishop last week at a service held at the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection in Lahore. The Deputy Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar presided at the 28 Sept 2012 ceremony that welcomed Bishop Jamil and marked the retirement of Bishop Alexander Malik, who served as Bishop of Lahore for 32 years.

On Feb 5, 2011 Bishop Jamil was consecrated as coadjutor to Bishop Malik.  Prior to his election he served as vicar of St. Thomas Church, Islamabad and Adviser to the Bishop of Lahore for Evangelism.  He also served for 17 years as general secretary of the Pakistan Fellowship of Evangelical Students.  Educated in Pakistan, Bishop Jamil trained for the ministry at the London Bible College and Trinity Theological College, Singapore.

Bishop Jamil told the congregation: “The word responsibility comes from ability and response. I know there may be great challenges for me. But I promise to work as the Bishop of Lahore under fear of God and to the best of my abilities with commitment, dedication and devotion.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pak govt underfire for ordering church demolition: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2012 p 6. January 24, 2012

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Diocesan leaders standing amidst the ruins of the demolished church

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Christian leaders have denounced the seizure and demolition by the Punjab government of a two acre site in Lahore that housed a church, a women’s shelter, and seven homes.

The Punjab government has defended its destruction of the properties saying it acquired the land after one of the residents at the shelter announced her conversion to Islam.

On 10 January 2012 residents living in the church properties on Allama Iqbal Road in Lahore’s Garhi Sahu district were awakened at 6:30 in the morning and told to leave their homes immediately. Bulldozers then leveled the church and all other buildings on the site.

The Catholic Bishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that what the “state government of Punjab has done is a very, very brutal act of injustice.”

“How can they do such a thing, just to come in, wreck a charitable institution and ruin the lives of people living there? They do not listen to anybody.”

The Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Lahore, Dr. Alexander Malik condemned the destruction of the church buildings. He also called for the state to register a case of Blasphemy against the local government officials who ordered the demolition as Bibles, crosses and other church ornaments were destroyed.

This incident was a manifestation of the state’s “unaccounted power” and demonstrated the “grave injustice and cruelty [directed] towards non-Muslims/religious minorities in Pakistan,” Bishop Malik said.

Bishop Shaw added that this was a “criminal act of land-grabbing by the government functionaries” as the Catholic Church held title deeds to the property showing it acquired the property in 1887. The controversy over the ownership of the land began several years ago, the Lahore press reported, when one of the residents of the shelter announced her conversion to Islam and began to harass the nuns who ran the refuge. She refused to leave the shelter and questioned the ownership of the two rooms she occupied.

The state intervened in the dispute, but was unable to resolve the disagreement. In 2007 local government officials announced they were confiscating the land, and claimed to have notified the church of this decision. A government spokesman said that a “land-mafia” group had taken adverse possession of the property, and had used armed gunmen to drive away local officials when they had attempted to gain access to the property.

However, local residents had disputed this claim, according to the Express Tribune, and Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission on Justice and Peace, said that a court had issued a restraining order forbidding destruction of the buildings.

On 16 January 2012 Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Lahore High Court ordered the local government authority to respond to the violation of the court order staying demolition.

Text message ban for Pakistan questioned: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011, p 6. December 7, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has retreated from its proposal to ban obscene words and phrases offensive to Islam from text messages. A PTA spokesman told Agence France-Presse that it would review its proposed list of 1600 forbidden words that include “Jesus Christ” before issuing the ban.

Last week the PTA informed SMS providers in Pakistan that they would be required to block text messages that contained words or phrases that appeared on the forbidden list of 1100 English and 500 Urdu words.  While the overwhelming majority of words were obscene or scatological, the list also included religion related phrases such as “Jesus Christ” and “Satan” as well as words that do not appear to have an immediate offensive meaning such as “athlete’s foot.”

Church leaders in Pakistan cried foul upon hearing of the proposed ban.  The Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Lahore, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Malik released a statement on 23 Nov saying that “Jesus” was a sacred word and its inclusion in a ban on obscene words was “tantamount to blasphemy.”

The secretary of the Roman Catholic Commission for Social Communications, Fr. Nadeem John Shakir told the Fides News Agency the Catholic Church “will put pressure on the government to eliminate the name of Christ from the prohibited list.”

“We understand the desire to protect the minds of young people but why include the name of Christ? What is obscene? Banning it is a violation of our right to evangelize and hurts the feelings of Christians,” Fr Shakir said on 21 Nov.

“If the ban is confirmed, it would be a black page for the country, a further act of discrimination against Christians and an open violation of Pakistan’s constitution,” he said.

The PTA has the authority to restrict speech under Article 19 of the Pakistani constitution.  While the law permits free speech, it is also “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by the law, in the interest of the glory of Islam.”

Questions as to the feasibility of the ban are misplaced, internet consultant Kevin Kallsen told The Church of England Newspaper.  “For a cellular operator, even in a developing country, filtering SMS messages is not a problem.  It does not slow delivery or effect normal network performance.”

“ However, If the operator had to notify you the message you sent was filtered; or the receiver that an incoming message was blocked that would slow down the system,” said Mr. Kallsen, the founder of Anglican TV.

“The issue in Pakistan is with the amount of words to be filtered. As comedian George Carlin said, there are only 11 ‘dirty’ words banned from commercial broadcasting in the U.S.  Taking 1600 words out of any language is beyond reason,” he argued.

Bishop of Lahore: ‘Pakistan falling short of Jinnah’s vision’: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 19, 2011 p 6. August 19, 2011

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pakistan has failed to live up to the ideals of its founding president, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Bishop of Lahore said last week in a statement marking the country’s Minorities Day.

On Aug 10 Bishop Alexander Malik released a statement saying it was wrong to equate the Christians of Pakistan with Europeans or Americans, or to claim Christians were ‘fifth columnists’ of the West.

He also reminded his compatriots of the five ideals that lay behind the founding of Pakistan as expressed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947 had yet to be fulfilled.  In a speech delivered on Aug 11, 1947 to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan following his election as the first president, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said “the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.”

The second responsibility of government was to combat “bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand,” President Jinnah said.

“Black-marketing is another curse,” the president said, as is this “great evil, the evil of nepotism and jobbery.”

The fifth principal, the bishop said was of freedom of religion.  “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

These ideals had yet to be fulfilled in Pakistan, Bishop Malik said.  The state should respect the grievances and concerns of religious minorities and should combat the prejudices of the Muslim majority against the Christian minority.

“All minorities deserve fair representation in public policies and decision making bodies both levels at federal and provincial,” the bishop said, according to an account printed in the Nation newspaper.