An open letter of gratitude to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Dear most reverend archbishop, Justin Welby,
I am not sure how I am supposed to address you; may I call you the reverend father? This seems more appropriate considering the impression you’ve left behind after your visit to Pakistan. Reverend father, you are the head of a worldwide Anglican community which includes Pakistan.
You landed in our country last Friday night and, despite the protocol, you did not attend many meetings with the high and the mighty. One official courtesy call to the Foreign Office Minister, Mr Sartaj Aziz was necessary. The purpose behind your visit to Pakistan becomes evident when we take notice of your activities throughout your stay.
Early Saturday morning, you met with the families of those victims that lost their lives in a suicide blast in All Saints Church, Peshawar. You came with love in your heart and prayer on your lips. A good shepherd knows his flock and I can proudly say that I am amongst them.
We, the Pakistanis, are famous for our hospitality. I must say that you looked great in that Chitrali cap and long coat presented to you by your hosts – the families of Peshawar. The world leaders do not understand our pain and suffering after years of terrorism. Many leaders from the United States, China or Turkey visit Pakistan but only to further their own economic interests and remain cocooned in diplomatic security. So how would they know the problems faced by the common man in Pakistan? We would genuinely welcome all leaders if they would only take an interest in our lives.
Bureaucracy paints a picture of Pakistan which only exists in the wide boulevards of Islamabad. The representations of our culture that our foreign friends get to see are the statues of the folk heritage museum in Islamabad. They hear presentations on security and terrorism from the bureaucrats and have an image of Pakistan as a frontline of war on terror, much like November 2001.
I commend you for visiting our country without any fear, unlike many world leaders. President Obama, despite his professions of love for Pakistan’s daal qeema (mince and lentil curry), could not visit Pakistan to share our burden. But you came with unflinching love and without hesitation. You were willing to share the pain and hear confessions of fear that the persecuted and traumatised communities in Pakistan feel every day.
I further applaud you, and Mrs Welby, for meeting the grieving families of those that were lost to the Youhanabad and Iqbal Park Easter blast. These families of Peshawar and Lahore have experienced the horrors of extremism by losing their loved ones to terrorism. Only a compassionate person like you could show them the positive side by consoling them.
And not to forget, your presence amongst the school children encouraged them to achieve their goals – and that’s something that they shall cherish for a very long time. It takes a lot to reach out to children and in a way, you attempted to secure our future.
On a separate note, we desperately need interfaith harmony. So thank you for sharing your heartfelt views with the religious leaders in Pakistan. You encouraged them to build bridges of mutual trust – and if that happens, half of our problems will be solved!
You have set an example for Pakistan by attempting to bring all faith communities together at Lambeth Palace, and hosting Pakistani religious leaders while they visit London. The Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed a Pakistani Priest Reverend, Rana Youab Khan, as Archbishop’s Assistant on Interfaith Dialogue in 2009, who very diligently coordinated and assisted you during your trip to Pakistan.
You have demonstrated your leadership by bringing Muslims, Christians and other faith communities together in the UK. You started Near Neighbours for youth leadership among various faith communities. I have had the privilege of attending one such project with the youth from Bradford, Manchester and the north of England. Leadership and management skills are important tools for the inner city youth in northern England, often from Asian Pakistani background, to further their career prospects. Near Neighbours brings young adults, women and community leaders from different faiths together to learn from each other’s experiences and traditions. Together we become stronger as a community.
In Russian they do not say goodbye; they say ‘till we meet again’. In Punjabi we say ‘rab raakha’ and in Pakhto ‘khuda pa aman’, which means ‘God is your protector’. I would like to thank you on behalf of all us Pakistanis. And we know that those sentiments are mutual and we are not forgotten.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.