[Episcopal News Service — Auckland, New Zealand] The Anglican Consultative Council apparently will go on record at its Oct. 27-Nov. 7 meeting here as deploring persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan.
On Nov. 3 (local time) the council discussed a resolution that, in its proposed form, says in part that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws “while protecting Islam and the Prophet, are vaguely formulated and are increasingly being arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution.”
The resolution calls for repeal of the laws and that the government take steps to “prevent their unjust application” pending that repeal. It also asks the government to protect the life and property of religious minorities and immediately stop abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages.
While the members were prepared to pass the resolution on Nov. 3, they decided to send it back to the resolutions committee to perfect language that would call on each communion province to contact directly their government’s diplomatic agencies and representatives of the Pakistani government in their countries in order to express their concerns.
“I think you are assured of a positive outcome of this resolution,” ACC Chair and Diocese of Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga told Archbishop Samuel Azariah, moderator of the Church of Pakistan and bishop of Raiwind, as the council loudly applauded.
Azariah had moved the resolution; saying he did so standing before the council “in pain and in agony.”
He noted that when Pakistan was created there was a pledge of equal rights for all religious minorities but “today the religious minorities in Pakistan are facing serious threats to their existence.”
“It is not only an issue of their human rights; it is an issue of existence for us in our context,” Azariah said.
Archbishop Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu of the Province of Aba, Church in Nigeria, said most of the words of the resolution could apply to Christians in the northern part of his country. Nwosu and the other Nigerian ACC members recently called for prayers, fasting and other support of religious minorities in that country.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa urged passage of the resolution saying that “part of our communion is hurting and if that part is hurting, we are all hurting.”
The resolution, he said, “requires us in a tangible way to express what it is to be communion.”
Diocese of Ceylon Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey said “hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis” are coming to Sri Lanka because they have been tortured, had their homes burned down or they have escaped abduction attempts.
“This needs to stop,” the bishop said.
“Important organizations” of the world, including the ACC, must “take this seriously and show the solidarity,” he said.
The Ven. Turi Hollis, ACC member from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, said his fellow citizens “are fortunate in this county where we don’t live under the threat of terrorism as much as [some Anglicans face] in other parts of the communion”
“We still follow and sorrow and grieve with you as these things happen. We don’t always know what practical things we can do to show our support,” he said, adding that the resolution was at least a way of showing solidarity.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested that the members ought to agree that in addition to standing by religious minorities, “we’re [also] expressing support for all those elements in civil society in Pakistan who are struggling for some kind of open democratic polity,” especially “those of the legal world who are increasingly going public with their discontent.”
“It think that it is very important that activists and advocates should hear that we are supporting them as well,” he said.
Williams also said he had heard some members suggesting a more general resolution about persecution of religious minorities because “we have a number of instances of persecution of Christians arising in several contexts around the communion.”
The Pakistan resolution drew the most discussion among the six that the council considered on Nov. 3. It passed five ecumenism-related resolutions. They include:
- Resolution 15.13 which welcomes “To Love and Serve the Lord,” a report of the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission; commends it to the communion’s churches for study and action; endorses the study’s recommendations and affirms the establishment of a coordinating committee to take the work forward.
- Resolution 15.14 which renews the Anglican-Old Catholic International Coordinating Council and commends “Belonging together in Europe: A joint statement on aspects of ecclesiology and mission” as the basis on which to move to a concrete proposal for common mission.
- Resolution 15.15, which recommends establishment of a dialogue with the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
- Resolution 15.16, which affirms a report on transitivity (the question of the relationship of different ecumenical agreements to one another) in ecumenical relations and commends it to the communion’s churches, inviting them to implement its recommendations where appropriate.
- Resolution 15.17, which welcomes “The Church: Towards a Common Vision” from the World Council of Churches, commends it for study and asks WCC members to send their response to both the WCC and the Anglican Communion Office.
The ACC will not meet on Nov. 4 (local time) so that members can worship with Anglicans in Auckland and other parts of the province, and learn about their mission and ministry. The members will discuss their so-called “Mission Encounters” when they return to Holy Trinity Cathedral (http://www.holy-trinity.org.nz/) on Nov. 5.
The ACC is one of the four instruments of communion, the others being the archbishop of Canterbury (who serves as president of the ACC), the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, and the Primates Meeting.
Formed in 1969, the ACC includes clergy and lay people, as well as bishops, among its delegates. The membership includes from one to three persons from each of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces, depending on the numerical size of each province. Where there are three members, there is a bishop, a priest and a lay person. Where fewer members are appointed, preference is given to lay membership. The ACC’s constitution is here.
The council meets every three years or four years and the Auckland meeting is the council’s 15th since it was created.
The Episcopal Church is represented by Josephine Hicks of North Carolina; the Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio; and Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut.
Jefferts Schori is attending the meeting in her role as a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee, which met here prior to the start of the ACC meeting. Douglas is also a member of the Standing Committee.
A complete list of the ACC15 participants is here.
All ENS coverage of ACC15 is here.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.