Address by Most Reverend Anthony Lobo,
Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi At the Catholic Social Ministry
Gathering on 24th September 2002, Washington, D.C.
Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers....., Brothers, Sisters, Ladies, and Gentlemen.
First of all, I wish to convey the heartfelt sympathies to all of you and also the prayers of all Pakistanis for the victims of the horrendous attack on the 11th of September. We all prayed in Pakistan but I take this opportunity to carry the condolences of all Pakistanis to the people of this country. No motivations could justify these acts of terrorism.
Now on to the subject, which I present in four sections.
First, how the world changed.
Second, the impact on Pakistan.
Third, the implications for the Church.
Lastly, what the U.S. Church can do.
I. How the world changed
Everyone knows where Pakistan is. Previous to 9/11, I had always to explain to most people in Europe and America, where I came from. Now I don't.
We in the Church made three year preparations for the new millenium. The United Nations also prepared for it with the hope that the new century would not repeat the violence of the 20st Century. But the context of these preparations hit us with a bang on 9/11.
We all believed that the U.S. was the sole superpower, and too strong to be attacked inside its own territory. But 9/11 showed how vulnerable it is. The attacks were on symbolic targets, aimed at hitting the center of the economy, the military and (if it succeeded) the political power.
9/11 has been a wake-up call. Terrorism is global. Its network spreads over 40-60 countries, and has about 70,000 trained terrorists.
An important change in the USA is the move away from isolation. The war on terrorism needs a coalition.
9/11 has also led people to study the roots and causes of terrorism and the challenge to heal not just the symptoms but more importantly, the disease itself, which causes these symptoms, which are unjust economical and political systems. For instance, 6% of the world's population consumes 60% of the world's energy a year. Eight billion US dollars is spent on cosmetics annually and 15 billion US dollars on food for pets (cats, dogs, birds and fish). Whereas 30,000 children die every year for lack of nutrition and health. Again, 400 billion US dollars is spent on arms and ammunition.
9/11 is also an invitation to move away from the pragmatic policy of satisfying short-term self-interest to a more principled policy of working for long-term interests. An example is the abandoning of Afghanistan after the Russians were defeated.
9/11 has proven once again that all Frankensteins ultimately develop and will turn against their creators. The most extreme and bigoted people were armed and financed to throw out the Russians from Afghanistan. After they were thrown out, Afghanistan broke up into fragments controlled by warlords, all rivals of each other. Again, the most narrow and extreme Taliban were armed and financed to unify Afghanistan. They accomplished the unification, but turned against their creators.
9/11 also invites us to examine the foreign policy of backing and supporting oppressive regimes which deny human rights to their people or the policy of suppressing the right to a homeland for the people of Kashmir or Palestine.
Finally, there has been much good that has come out of evil. The heroism of the firemen, police and journalists; the fueling of solidarity among all religions who want to help the victims and work to prevent further violent and terrorist attacks. Above all, the turning to God in faith and trust, knowing that He alone has the power to save us.
II. Understanding Pakistan
The founder of our country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, definitely wanted a Muslim state which would be modern, democratic, tolerant of all minorities, and which would work for overall welfare, justice and the progress and prosperity of all its people. Unfortunately, after his death, the narrow interpretation of Islam became increasingly entrenched.
One cause of this is a kind of nostalgia for the days when Muslims ruled almost the whole of Afghanistan and undivided India. This reverence for days of former glory and the urge to resurrect it is human.
To understand the present, one must go back to the end of World War II. There were two superpowers. To contain Russia, the USA created military pacts like NATO, CENTO and SEATO. India remained non-aligned and neutral. But Pakistan joined the anti-Russian pacts.
Not satisfied with pacts, the USA supported a fundamentalist party in Pakistan and helped it to spread its network all over the country. It has deeply infiltrated into the civil bureaucracy and the armed forces. This is the kind of Islam promoted by the military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq. It was Zia-ul-Haq who imposed separate electorates, the mother of all evils, and Islamic laws (SHARIAT) such as the Blasphemy Law with its death penalty.
The Islamic Summit Conference in 1973 took important decisions in camera (closed door sessions). One was to use oil as a weapon; then to make the AIslamic Bomb.@ To reorganize the State of Palestine. Finally, to destroy Lebanon as a non-Muslim country.
Today, Pakistan has come full circle. It moved 180% from Jinnah's modern, progressive Muslim state to Zia's fundamentalist, Islamic state. Now, Musharraf wants to go back to Jinnah's vision of Pakistan, which is another 180% turn. Musharraf has restored joint electorates.
The odds are heavy against this change. There are 20,000 madrassas with three million students. One Jihad organization has 7,000 madrassas with 700,000 students trained, brainwashed and armed to fight. If the trend continues, by the year 2010, there will be as many madrassas as government schools.
There are many Jihad organizations in Pakistan. One has 600,000 donation boxes with 5000 fund collectors. It employs 500 journalists and publishes seven different magazines, including one for women, one for youth and one for children. We thus have a state within a state where Jihad groups have their own finance and their armies.
Massive aid and loans would be needed to provide a sound education as well as a tolerant view of Islam, and also to provide jobs and job-oriented education.
A lot of NGOs are working well and need be supported.
The extremists are a minority, but very assertive, and often violent. The modern, progressive people are in the majority, but silent.
III. Challenge for the Church
The Christian community is a tiny minority, about two million out of 140 million Muslims. Another two million are Hindus. In addition to being a small number in quantity, they are also marginalized. The center of political and economic power is Muslim. There are no Christians among the industrialists, landlords, businessmen or in the upper ranks of the defense and civil services, judiciary or in the professions like doctors, lawyers and other professions.
Converted 150 years ago, the Christians were able to rise from what was practically slavery or even untouchability to the position of lower middle class or poor. The average family income is $50 per month or $100 if the wife also works.
What helped us to come up was the establishment of Christian colleges, schools and hospitals. The Protestant education policy was different. They started five colleges, while the Roman Catholics stressed schools. The only colleges in the Catholic Church were started in only one of the four provinces in the south, and these after 1947, too little and too late.
But in 1972, the government nationalized all colleges and most of the schools in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Each lost over 80 schools and four colleges. The Frontier Province and Baluchistan did not nationalize any institutions. The best schools were exempted from nationalization.
Only in this year, 2002, we have succeeded in getting back almost all our schools. We still look forward to getting back our colleges. The damage done to the Church was tremendous. We lost a whole generation.
What was worse is the morale was shaken and a brain drain of highly competent and resourceful Christians took place. They emigrated to the UK, Canada, the USA and Australia. There are no competent people to replace them.
Today, we have few competent people to staff our good institutions like the few schools and hospitals, whose services are greatly appreciated and where witness is given to our values, and inter-religious dialogue takes place.
The challenge to the Church is to educate our people and also to contribute to the education of the wider population, where our services in schools and hospitals have been greatly appreciated. We need to educate the masses of our faithful as well as the wider population in values such as respect for human rights and dignity, tolerance, justice and peace. We need to train leaders. We need to impart job-oriented skills training. We need to improve the health of our peoples, especially the poor. We need to build the capacity of our people as well as make our institutions sustainable.
The Salesians of Don Bosco have committed to establishing and running two residential schools, to form leaders for the Christian community. These schools will take boys from all over the country after grade five. They will keep them until grade twelve. In our country, grade twelve is very strategic for the students who go to medical and engineering colleges and for law or business colleges or to the University.
Being in a residential structure, they have students around the clock. Whereas in day schools, students remain four hours a day and most of the hours are devoted to academics, and the finer points tend to get left out: critical thinking, values, sports and games, music, art, drama and above all Catechism and the Liturgy. The founder of the Salesians told them that they must be with the students 24 hours a day.
At a recent meeting of the National Education Commission, representatives of all 6 dioceses met and assessed how much money would be needed for our Endowment Fund to support our schools and to provide scholarships for training professionals and also impart job-oriented skills training. The total amount figured would be US $6 million.
Housing is another problem for Christians. Most live in rented houses, but landlords raise the rent every year.
The challenge to the Church is to be the salt, leaven and light.
IV. How the US can help
The first way that the US can help is advocacy. Two recent successes are the de-nationalization of schools and the restoration of joint electorates. We still need help to get back our colleges and to prevent the misuse of the Blasphemy Laws and the abolition of other discriminatory laws.
There has been no central authority in Islam for over a century. Perhaps help can be given to restore that central authority. It could help curb extremism.
Dialogue of various kinds and with various Muslims is necessary. This should be with extremists, and also with different sects. It should be a dialogue of the heart, for joint action for human rights, justice, peace and development. Many NGOs are already doing this.
Massive aid (of US $30 billion) is suggested for Afghanistan. People in Pakistan have similar needs for health, education and housing and should be considered favorably.
The roots of poverty and injustice should be studied and efforts made to heal them.
Many people can't use aid because they lack trained, competent skilled man-power. In the short run, we would need Peace Corps volunteers to fill the gap and build capacity in the local people.
Help should also be given to ensure stability of all development.
We could summarize the other challenge in the well known phrase of Pope Paul VI, repeated frequently by Pope John Paul II: "Build the civilization of love."
I find the best explanation of this in the Book of Ezekiel, the whole of which is about the nearness or closeness to God. It is summed up in the last verse of this book: "The name of the city of the future will be Yahweh Samaeh" (Ez 48:35). This means, God is present, close, near. From the word Acity@ we get civilization. There can be no civilization of love unless God is present. The godless civilization being globalized today is one of reason without faith, nature without grace, human without the divine, secular without the sacred and freedom without the responsibility.
Integral to this Civilization of Love is the biblical concept of law, which always includes the presence of the lawgiver. He holds us by the hand and helps us to keep his law. When we cease to hold his hand, we violate his law. Sin is written on the human heart Awith an iron pen and a diamond point" (Jer 17:1). But, Jesus comes to write the law of God on our hearts (Jer 31:33).
Finally, the summary of the Old Testament , "Be holy as I the Lord your God am holy." Matthew sums up the Gospel in the words, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." Luke's summary is, "Be compassionate as your Father is." I congratulate each one of you and all the organizations you work for because you make the Gospel come to life. You make the compassion of God visible.