Response to Violence against Pakistani Christians
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Tom Rust addresses the gathering
DC: The Washington-DC Pakistani-American Community held a
magnificent fundraising event on January 21, 2006 at the ADAMS
(All Dulles Area Muslim Society) Center in Northern Virginia.
The event was organized in response to the destruction of
Christian churches, schools and other buildings in Sangla
Hill, Punjab, Pakistan on November 12, 2006 by a violent mob.
"The beautiful crystal, oh, what painstaking process
creates it? Alas that reckless rock, which destroys it,”
wrote the Punjabi mystic Mian Muhammad Bakhsh in the epic
"Saif-ul-Muluk" - The Sword of the Angels.
Just as Mian Muhammad Bakhsh would have condemned such hideous
act of destroying schools, where 90 percent of the students
were Muslims, the Washington-DC Pakistani-American community
felt outraged. But rather than wallow in self-pity, three
women (Mmes Nasim M. Khan, Rubian M. Bari and Shabana Z. Syed)
galvanized the community with remarkable effectiveness. “We
cannot remain silent about the desecration of places of worship,
no matter their creed; nor can we remain silent over the complete
failure of local Pakistani authorities to protect religious
minorities against senseless persecution,” they wrote
in a letter asking for the support in rebuilding the Catholic
Church that was destroyed in this act of sectarian violence.
Washington Post as well as other media outlets published the
announcement of this fundraiser and Pakistani Americans as
well as many people from different faiths and ethnicity participated
in the event. Retired World Bank Executives and a professor
from Washington’s National Defense University were among
the audience. Some traveled long distances, putting aside
their social calendars for the Saturday event to demonstrate
their solidarity with the organizers.
Among the dignitaries were three delegates from the Virginia
Assembly (Tom Rust, Kenneth Plum and David Poisson). Each
delegate expressed support for the cause. “You not only
preach but also practice tolerance,” said Delegate Tom
Rust. The most memorable remark, however, was by Delegate
David Poisson: “My office in Richmond (Virginia’s
capital) is your home.” These words were not of a politician
seeking office but of a State Representative after winning
the seat in the district where ADAMS Center is located.
“Work on a dialogue of civilizations and building bridges,”
said Professor Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studied,
American University, Washington, DC. He told the audience
that Pakistan’s Founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had a
“vision of a just society,” where the rights of
the minorities would be protected. “Help people understand
your culture,” urged Dr. Akbar Ahmed.
“You can’t ask for respect, if you don’t
give respect”, said Reverend Clark Lobenstine, Executive
Director, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington
DC. Confidently, he added, “ We are going to make a
view of the audience
Alaikum,” said Reverend Comfort Jacob – a Pakistani
American Christian – Pastor, Presbyterian Church Herndon,
Virginia. Reverend Jacob spoke about the traditions of Prophet
Muhammad and said that “ignorant people who do not even
understand Islam” committed the violence. “The
(Pakistani) flag is only complete when minorities are there,”
he said while speaking about the fabric of Pakistan.
Pakistani columnist Manzur Ejaz urged the community members
to practice tolerance. Imam Mohammed Magid, Executive Director
and Imam ADAMS, said that the event sent a “strong message
not just to Pakistan but also people in Egypt and Sudan”
about practicing tolerance.
The evening’s compassionate message was apparently well
taken by the audience. “The banquet, organized by ADAMS
to raise funds for reconstruction of churches in Sangla Hill,
Pakistan, was not only a supportive and united effort to reach
out to the hearts of Christians to redress the vicious attacks
on Christian establishments in Sangla Hill but it was a message
of love and deep reverence for other faiths; it was a call
to unite against sectarian terrorism and prosecution of religious
minorities and to uphold freedom of religion worldwide,”
said Eleonora L. Karamyants, Institute on Religion and Public
Policy Washington, DC.
The event also demonstrated the vibrancy of the All Dulles
Area Muslim Society as a welcoming and an engaging group of
Muslim Americans. This was evident from the beautiful design
of the multi-purpose room, which could be used for prayers;
dinners and sports making people of different persuasions
feel at home.