Pakistan at the Crossroads of Fundamentalism and Progress

Interview with Secretary of Episcopal Conference

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NEW DELHI, India, MARCH 21, 2002 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- Pakistan is at a crossroads of fundamentalism and modernization, and last Sunday´s attack on a Christian church is an expression of the struggle between the country´s two mentalities.



So says Bishop Anthony T. Lobo of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, secretary of the Pakistan episcopal conference. He gave this interview after visiting hospitalized victims of the attack.

Q: What was the Church´s reaction to this latest aggression against a Christian target?

Bishop Lobo: The first reaction was prayer. Prayers recited throughout the country for Christians, for victims and for the wounded who are in hospital. We also prayed for those who committed this act of violence and, finally, we prayed that the roots of anger, frustration and bitterness that motivate such actions may be identified and remedied.

Q: Were there Catholics there at the time of the attack?

Bishop Lobo: There are three Christian Churches in Islamabad: one Catholic, one Anglican of the Church of Pakistan, and one international of a Pentecostal majority. The presence of Catholics in the latter is very unlikely.

Q: What does this attack mean? Is it an attempt by fundamentalist elements to discredit the struggle of the Musharraf government against sectarian forces?

Bishop Lobo: The government spokesman and local newspapers believe that the fundamentalists are trying to discredit the government of General Pervez Musharraf.

We are faced with the struggle of two ideologies: between the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah del Quaid-e-Azam, of a Pakistan that is a modern and progressive Islamic nation, and the fundamentalist and intolerant view, which is contrary to modernization and desirous of resurrecting an ancient and glorious past.

Q: Do you think the government has taken sufficient precautionary measures against attacks of this kind?

Bishop Lobo: There is no government that can protect its own citizens always and everywhere. However, there must be individuals who are constantly alert and able to avoid attacks of this kind and, at the same time, able to defend themselves.

The secret services should be able to identify those organizations that intend to take recourse to violence and should be able to take preventive action. And the forces of order should be trained to deal with this type of violence.