10/17/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN – amc
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Asian Mission Congress: the "courage" to witness Christ in Pakistan

by Qaiser Felix
The meeting will open tomorrow in Chang Mai. Pakistani delegates will talk about how difficult the mission is in a Muslim country standing by the marginalised of every faith. "Christians are steadfast in their faith," says bishop of Lahore.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The difficult situation of the Church in Pakistan, the need to be a united community in order to further the mission, the importance to teach and spread the values of tolerance and respect are but a few of the issues Mgr Lawrence Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore, along with other delegates from the Pakistani Church, will discuss at the Asia Mission Congress which opens tomorrow and ends on October 22.

In an interview with AsiaNews before his departure for Thailand, the prelate said that in Pakistan the situation is difficult, "but Christians are steadfast and strong in their faith."

The archbishop explained that Catholic schools are an important mission instrument. "In our institutes there are many Muslims. Like the hospitals we run, schools are an important part of our mission in Pakistan. Our priority is to tell the story of Jesus to non Christians," he said.

The prelate expressed the hope that the congress in Chang Mai will be a "good opportunity for the whole of the Asia and allow us to be more aware of our role and responsibilities towards evangelisation so that the whole world might receive the light of Jesus Christ."

Mgr Max John Rodrigues, bishop of Hyderabad, will be among the Pakistani delegates. Reached by phone, the bishop said that at the congress he will talk about the mission "from a Pakistani perspective" that makes dialogue fundamental.

Mgr Rodrigues said that he will tell his fellow participants about the Church's work with tribal people in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, and the experiences with marginalised people of different faiths.

According to him, "the mission starts with ourselves, each one of us must evangelise himself; only thereafter can we grow as a community because the mission is not an individual task. Only a united community can bear witness to its faith."

The bishop confirmed that as far as the situation of minorities in Pakistan is concerned, "there are difficulties that must be faced."

None the less he said, "the mission is always carried out in places of suffering and persecution. It always begins within ourselves and then works its way towards others."
The Pakistani delegation to Chang Mai will be headed by Fr Mario Rodrigues, national direction of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Some 13 Pakistani Christian groups will take part in the congress. They will bear witness not only in words but also by means of a photo exhibit showing the activities of the country's various organisations.

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