NAPLES — A Pakistani minister described his country as a place of continuing turmoil and peril, especially for any members of the non-Muslim minority.
The Rev. Maqsood P. Kamil spoke at the Moorings Presbyterian Church on Friday evening as part of the church’s 2009 speaker series.
Kamil is the executive secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan and also a member of the International Peacemakers, a Presbyterian group engaged in global peace efforts.
“In Pakistan, terrorism has grown tremendously,” Kamil told the audience of more than 100 people. “No one seems to be safe.”
Almost as confirmation of that, the other speaker scheduled for the event, Khuram Dastgir Khan, an elected member of Parliament from the Muslim League, wasn’t able to attend because of a recent assassination.
Also, Kamil and Khan originally were slated to speak at the church in November, but were forced to cancel that engagement because of upheaval in the country.
“It’s a very depressive situation back home,” Kamil said. “There is great uncertainty.”
Kamil is a Christian. He spoke about how his father, raised in a family of prominent Sikh exorcists, converted to Christianity. The evil spirit plagued his father until he met a Christian minister who told him to pray in Jesus’ name. His father improved, and when Kamil was born, it soon became clear that the boy should become a minister.
“Many people don’t know if there are any Christians” in Pakistan, Kamil said. “They quickly ask, ‘Were you converted?’”
Only 5 percent of the people in the country are non-Muslims, Kamil said.
He described Pakistan as a country founded with specific intentions: “Pakistan is the only Islamic ideological state,” he said. “It is very peculiar in this sense.”
Kamil had sharp words for some of Pakistan’s former leaders, including former prime minister Zulfiker Ali Bhutto, who he called “an absolute hypocrite” responsible for actions that created “political apartheid.”
Kamil explained how policies of that time are responsible for many of the extremist laws that continue today, such as so-called “blasphemy laws,” or laws that punish anyone who defames or debases the Koran.
He didn’t spare the United States, either.
The U.S. government has a way of arranging whatever government it wishes, he said: “The way we see it is, double standards are being observed. The American government loses its credibility.”
Kamil also spoke about the Taliban and terrorist groups’ increasing grip on the Pakistani people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. He knows of schools and shops that have been destroyed and families that have been threatened. Suicides are common.
Members of the audience asked several questions of Kamil. Among them was Lois Hausler, who lived in Pakistan from 1969 to 1974 with her husband.
She remembers the danger of the country during that time, and found Kamil’s story fascinating, especially his Sikh background.
As a onetime minority Christian in Pakistan, she empathized with Kamil.
“We’re all here meeting with him and hoping to know it will survive,” she said of their shared faith.
Contact Elizabeth Kellar at firstname.lastname@example.org