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The time is now for ecumenism in Karachi

Delayed gatherings hurt inter-church unity

  • Ayyaz Gulzar, Karachi
  • Pakistan
  • June 26, 2012
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Renewed interest in ecumenism in Karachi archdiocese is being hampered by one factor – time.

No matter how hard Catholic Church workers try to organize joint events with other denominations; they always end up being frustrated by having to wait at least an hour or two before being able to start. Somehow it is related to a general trend in society where weddings, birthdays and even funerals always start late.

I always have a similar experience in these ecumenical programs. A few weeks ago, the Church of Pakistan organized an ecumenical prayer service and a candle light memorial at the Karachi press club for all those who have been killed in ethnic violence.

Many priests, nuns, seminarians and catechists arrived 15 minutes before things were due to start but the program was almost two hours late. Resultantly none of them took part in the memorial.

Watching them leave without meeting anyone or saying farewell was very embarrassing. Looking at empty seats on decorated stages and food going to waste on tables is even more painful.

It is well-known that Protestants have things to contend with. Many pastors do more than one job and workers are not trained well. I do not mean to criticize them. But they really have to address these problems.

Our local Church has come a long way in our relations with Christians of other denominations. You can now see Catholic nuns running book stalls outside Protestant cathedrals -- this was a rare sight in the past. Both churches have started inviting each other’s clergymen to lecture in their respective seminaries.

However, one appreciable thing about the Catholic Church is that their events and prayers take place on schedule.

“Especially in our city where there are good reasons not to allow a program to run on after 9pm. You never know when there will be a strike or where targeted killings will occur next,” a priest told me. Similarly, a nun told me once that she has to answer a volley of questions upon returning late at night to her convent.

Given the increasing challenges of Islamic extremism and religious intolerance, ecumenical unity is an essential need during this time. We have formed several action forums in the wake of Church attacks and are even working
on a joint Bible for Catholics and Protestants. But all of it will work only if we are on time.

Ayyaz Gulzar is a commentator based in Karachi
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