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In Pakistan, Christian Study Centre celebrates 50 years

In Pakistan, Christian Study Centre celebrates 50 years

Photo: Clare Amos/WCC

10 November 2017

The genuine human cost of peace-making was made apparent to a group of international guests and Pakistani nationals gathered at the Christian Study Centre (CSC) Rawalpindi 5-8 November as part of a Jubilee celebration held to mark 50 years since its founding.

The event was held in the shadow of political rallies in the vicinity which required extra high level security measures organised by the CSC and supported by civil authorities. For those gathered, it was a reminder of the way that Christians – and many others – in Pakistan often have to live out their lives and faith in a context of insecurity and fear.

Bishop Samuel Azariah, a long-standing member of the WCC Executive Committee and former moderator of the Church of Pakistan, chaired the proceedings in his capacity as chair of the CSC Board.

Bishop Azariah commented, From its very beginning and up till now the Christian Study Centre has been an important beacon for the Christians of Pakistan. It has been a place where Christians of many different churches have worked together ecumenically, with the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Pakistan playing especially important roles. The CSC is an excellent example of the way that ecumenical and interreligious work can interface to strengthen the life and witness of the churches.”

The celebration included prayers, feasting, and discussion focused on the theme of interreligious dialogue, and particularly Christian-Muslim relations, which has been the core work of CSC since its foundation. The role of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in assisting the foundation of the CSC in 1967 was mentioned with gratitude, and WCC was represented by Dr Clare Amos, programme executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation.

Amos commented: There was a wealth of riches and insights offered by the speakers.  I learned a lot from the close reading of Evangelii Gaudium offered by Father Jaun Carlos, a Jesuit priest working in Lahore. Given the closeness of the date to the Reformation anniversary, it was also interesting that one of the speakers chose to address the little-discussed Islamic context of the Reformation.”

She added: “I found it valuable that we discussed the benefits and disadvantages of using the language of ‘minority’ to describe Christian communities in Muslim majority countries – a suggestion was made that the description ‘vulnerable’ could be sometimes used as a helpful alternative to the word ‘minority’.”

Hospitality was described as a key motif in Christian-Muslim engagement – not only in its practical expression, but also within the exploration of a theology for interreligious relations that centred on God’s own hospitality. “The gift I brought to the CSC– a copy of the recently published English translation made by the WCC, of ‘Divine Hospitality: a Christian-Muslim Conversation’ – felt particularly apposite,” said Amos.

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