Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
A fumbled attempt at democracy
Extremism and apathy remain key obstacles to a free and fair Pakistan
- Silent Thinker, Lahore
- September 21, 2012
Boasting officials have already drafted preparations for the next general elections while ignoring society at large, which has now become further split between the haves and have-nots.
The â€ścommon manâ€ť remains deprived of the fruits of democracy.
Terrorism has become the norm. Religion has become a tool of mob violence. Society is more deeply divided along economic, religious, sectarian, linguistic and ethnic lines.
So what went wrong? Where did we fail?
Perhaps things will get better and peace will prevail if we overhaul our political system. One thing is for sure. Elections alone cannot offer true democracy in Pakistan.
There are 172 political parties registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan, 52 of them religious. However none fulfills the definition of a true political party.
â€śThere are no lists of members with their identity and addresses. A culture of donations has done away with any system of subscriptions. None of these parties has a non-Muslim or even a womanÂ as their president or general secretary.Â Â They do not have a clear policy on dealing with religious extremism,â€ť said Professor Mehdi Hasan at aÂ Peoples ForumÂ held yesterday under the auspices of the Centre for Human Rights Education.
â€śDynastic politics and feudalism have corrupted the houses [in parliament]. Many promote a tribal system while the opposition remains apologetic. Plus, a religious state cannot be democratic.â€ť
It is true that our state structure has excluded the participation of weaker segments of society. To begin with, a candidate for the national or a provincial assembly must spend at least five million rupees on his election campaign. A few parties follow the tradition of internal elections. Almost all are now running their militant wings while many are pro-jihadist groups.
I was startled when a veteran politician of Pakistan called Mullah Omar â€“ spiritual leader of the Taliban â€“ an Amir-ul-Momineen (Leader of the Faithful) during a recent public gathering.
Similarly, the silence of the ruling Pakistan People Party on the killing of its governor for alleged blasphemy was equally ominous. The cricketer-turned-politico Imran Khan is often criticized for his soft stance on the Taliban.
There is no denying that our leaders have made sacrifices, including imprisonment and martyrdom for the country. Many have refused to go abroad even after the killing of their sons and other family members in terrorist attacks.
However they have to deliver when they get the chance to serve the nation. Â The blame game is counterproductive.
Our leaders need to become true role models. Deliberate actions, not slogans, can change the destiny of our country. The textbooks have to be rewritten, this time with corrected history, so that we can reap a new crop of genuine leaders. There has to be social accountability at the level of union councils.
Concrete measures should be taken at all levels for the social inclusion of marginalized members of society to ensure equal citizenship. This is vital because there are presently no Jews or Ahmadis, a minority Muslim community regarded as heretical by orthodox Muslims, as ministers in the government.
The countryâ€™s first foreign minister was an Ahmadi and a Hindu law minister at the time of separation fromÂ India. A lot has changed since then, especially after three decades of dictatorship. The only hope lies in restoring the country to its original blueprint.
Secularism can help in achieving this objective but the principle is generally confused with atheism in an increasingly fundamentalist society.
We have to bring back the estranged citizens who have given up on the country. All we need is a political will punctuated with some patriotism.
Silent Thinker is the pseudonym of a Catholic commentator based inÂ Lahore