Pakistani Christians welcomed in Scotland

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L-R Rev Waris Emmanuel, Narseen Rebecca Wilson-John, Rev Fiona Gardner, Rt Rev Kaleem John, Ashley Farooq Maseh, Bill Gray, Glasgow Presbytery world mission convener.

Pakistani Christians on a twinning visit to Glasgow have praised the Church of Scotland for its “incredible” support amidst growing difficulties in the city of Hyderabad.

The delegation, guests of the Presbytery of Glasgow, are on a week-long visit to strengthen existing friendships and to develop a twinning relationship. During their time here they are also visiting projects that support some of the most vulnerable people in Glasgow.

Rt Rev Arshed Kaleem John, Bishop of the Diocese of Hyderabad of the Church of Pakistan which is in Sindh Province, said his parishes were under “constant attack” from ‘landgrab mafia’ who make false claims upon church owned property.

“Too much time and energy is spent protecting our land and property through our legal system,” said the Bishop.

“It means we cannot focus our efforts on Mission as much as we would like to.”

Connections

The Bishop, who is being accompanied on the trip by his wife Narseen – herself a women’s outreach worker – said he was “delighted, glad and happy” that connections between Glasgow and his diocese were being deepened during the visit.

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Mr Gray (left) said it was “important to keep in touch with the wider church” and that twinning with Hyderabad – which is in the final stages of being agreed – was a “major tool” in showing solidarity with Christians in challenging parts of the world.

The delegation visited the WEvolution project in Glasgow which empowers women to start their own business.

The Bishop revealed he would like to see this project replicated in Hyderabad. 

Rev Waris Emmanuel, of St Saviour’s Church in Sukkur, is also part of the visiting group.

The former builder, whose congregation is made up of 200 families, said he was impressed with “the style of working going on in Glasgow” throughout the various projects he was visiting.

Bill Gray, Glasgow Presbytery World Mission Convener, said it was “important to keep in touch with the wider church” and that twinning with Hyderabad – which is in the final stages of being agreed – was a “major tool” in showing solidarity with Christians in challenging parts of the world.

Mr Gray, who visited Hyderabad last year as part of a presbytery visit, added :“We also have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Pakistan”.

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The delegation were in Edinburgh meeting staff from the Church of Scotland's World Mission Council.

Carol Finlay, World Mission Council’s twinning and local development secretary, who met with the delegation in Church Offices in Edinburgh, said: “It is great to see how the relationship between these two areas of the world is developing, bonds of friendship are being strengthened and plans for mutual learning are being laid down during this visit.

"We are pleased to be able to offer funding from our Faithshare Visitors Programme to allow these visits to happen and recognise the value in making global connections.”

Presence

The Kirk has had a presence in Pakistan since 1857 when Rev Thomas Hunter went to Sialkot, then part of India.

Only months after arriving, he, his wife and their infant son were murdered in the First Indian War of Independence. A succession of missionaries have travelled to the country ever since.

The Church of Scotland helped pave the way for the creation of a national Protestant Church in Pakistan following the partition of British India in 1947.

On All Saints Day in 1970, the Church of Pakistan came into being as an ecumenical organisation representing Anglicans, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians.

Today the Church has over 500,000 members in 460 parishes.

The Church of Scotland supports various institutions, projects, advocacy work and twinnings across Pakistan, where Christians make up only 2% of the 191 million strong population.

Read more about the work of the World Mission Council.