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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Who is my neighbour?

Pakistan is a country that has been on my own heart for many months. Nothing to do with the devastating floods, and the death and deprivation that has resulted from them. No! Long before the water-level rose so destructively, the level of persecution against the minority Christian population had been rising to an unprecedented height.

It was, apparently, an advertising executive in a company that made baking powder who, through a mistranslation of a Chinese saying, coined the phrase "A picture is worth one thousand words"! It is a phrase that has been in my mind over recent days as I have seen more and more of that destruction, and devastation, and deprivation, that is currently being experienced by so many people in Pakistan. One of the most poignant photographs was in yesterday's online edition of the Metro. It showed a small child, asleep in a makeshift tent - with flies swarming around his nasal cavaties, and crawling over other parts of his face (http://e-edition.metro.co.uk/2010/08/16/).

Yet the headlines have also been proclaiming that the level of aid going to Pakistan is unusually low, and appeal after appeal has been made for people, and governments, around the world to give generously to assist in the rescue efforts.

I have found myself, with so much time on my hands, reflecting on why this should be so. I suspect that I am not the first, or the only, person to wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim state; that it is seen as a refuge for Islamist terrorists; that all non-Muslim groups are ill-treated; that the blasphemy laws are regularly abused in order to take Christians to court; that Christian girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault, and rape - with the perpetrators acting with apparent impunity!

Such an attitude is, of course, perfectly understandable! However, I have to ask myself if that makes it right. My answer is that, for the disciple of Jesus, it most certainly doesn't! I am currently reading through Luke's account of the Gospel in my personal devotions. Today, I was thinking on Lk.12:22-34. It was the last two verses that stopped me in my tracks (figuratively speaking!). "Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it, and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will also be." (NLT)

Then I turned to The Word for Today. The reading for today was based on Mk.12:31 - "... love your neighbour .." It began: "There are two things we should never do.: First, to expect to feel fully at home in this world, because '...we are citizens of heaven...' (Philippians 3:20 NLT), and second, to become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly use. The 'salt' and 'light' principles Jesus taught call for us to influence and illuminate others for good and for God. That means taking responsibility to do things better at home, on the job, and in all our dealings. If the only people you show genuine care for are in your church, your salt isn't flavouring and your light isn't dispelling darkness. Christ's command to 'Love your neighbour' includes the less-than-lovable." (my emphasis).

I support - prayerfully, financially, by writing to some, and by signing petitions (and encouraging others to do likewise) - my brothers and sisters in Christ who experience persecution the like of which I can barely imagine. But that does not mean that I should not help those who may not even be persecutors, but who happen to be fellow-citizens of those who are. They are my neighbour!

And may it not be that it will be the selfless giving of Christians that will make many in Pakistan question their own activities? Wasn't it Abraham Lincoln who said that "The best way to defeat your enemy is to make him your friend"? The so-called 'war on terror' hasn't worked. Perhaps it is time for an 'assault of love'!!

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