Smoke Signals from Pakistan
After hearing the disappointing news of the cancelled Unity Conference, we prayed and confessed our faith in the Holy Spirit to order our day. Anwar then made a few follow-up calls. The Head Mullah of Sialkot along with the District Police Officer “DPO” agreed to meet with us in the police headquarters. The DPO is responsible for all police activities in a district, which in Sialkot’s case is 4 million people; he is a man of great power and influence. After arriving at the police headquarters, the Mullah was busy for a time so we talked privately with the DPO in his office between officers coming and going needing signatures or instructions regarding a case.
He served us coffee and cookies as we sat in front of his large desk. The DPO was educated in Great Britain and has a degree English literature. He is a devoted Muslim. For two hours we enjoyed an extraordinary, mutually rewarding conversation about God, Allah, the Qur’an, the Bible, and lots about George Bush and American foreign policy and about following Jesus. Dave Gomez who, 25 years ago, served as a city councilman and police commissioner in Orland, CA, as well as being Vietnam War Veteran, was able to “talk turkey” with the DPO and they had some engaging conversations.
After the Mullah joined us we spoke about more specifically about religions topics. I asked for help in better understanding how Muslims in Pakistan view Jihad, terrorism and Islam. They, in turn, asked Dave and me about American attitudes toward Islam, Pakistan and the upcoming American presidential elections. The DPO was quite informed about the American political climate asking particular questions about the various presidential candidates.
During our conversations, the DPO agreed with me about the future of Christianity and Islam, that, if we cannot find common ground on loving our neighbor, then we are destined to fight and kill each other till the end of time. I commented on the fact that the bible teaches that there is a special place in heaven for martyrs of Jesus. Muslims believe that there is a special place in paradise, as well, for martyrs of Islam. I then asked him if we were going to have a contest about who was going to fill heaven with the most martyrs, Christians or Muslims?
The DPO and Mullah both stressed the “perfectness” of the Qur’an against the Bible which, in their view, was written by many different authors with numerous inconsistencies. In response, I brought up the fact that Sunni and Shiite Muslims both believe the Qur’an is a perfect book, yet each use their “perfect book” to justify murdering and killing each other every year around the world in the name of Allah.
I then said if I could agree with him that his holy book is perfect, as I do the bible, could he agree with me that our understanding of them is imperfect, susceptible to the limitations of our humanity. We are completely incapable of understanding perfectly an infinite, eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent God using our finite intellectual capacities. Therefore, we all, Christian and Muslim alike, misrepresent God and our holy books by doing things that result in the death, oppression, genocide and colonization of people in the name of God or “evangelism.” He nodded and verbally agreed, yes.
Interestingly, they also both stressed that Islam is a peaceful religion. They do not agree with terrorist acts of violence because, as they said, it is not the heart of Islam and the Qur’an. Both of them are committed to eradicating violence in their city, regardless of the source or religious ideologies that support them. Both of them are key architects of the Sialkot Peace Commission. Space prohibits telling all, but we had some deep discussions about Jesus apart from western Christianity. We then digressed into some good old fashioned political rhetoric about President Bush, Iraq, Osama bin Laden, Tony Blair, 9/11, etc.
The DPO asked the Mullah to take us and give us a tour of several Mosques. After our official meeting ended, we then went to three Mosques where we met a number Imams’ and Islamic study students and spoke of our mutual faith’s, we Jesus, them Allah. They were respectful and genuinely interested in hearing what we had to say.
It was a remarkable opportunity and great privilege to openly, honestly talk about following Jesus with Muslim religious leaders in an Islamic Republic.
and Dave Gomez