Bonnie Mendes is a Catholic priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad in Pakistan. He has served as the Executive Secretary for the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) untill 1995, as well as serving for the Punjab Peace Network and Caritas for Asia. In 2005, Mendes was chosen for the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) Star award. The association's annual awards program began to celebrate people in Asia who have been promoting peace and interreligious harmony.
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No Room for Fear
WHEN YOU live as a Christian in an Islamic country, there is no room for fear, no room for anger. You have to be patient. You have to be intelligent enough to live peacefully and nonviolently.
Once I was sitting all alone in the Catholic Church compound in Toba Tek Singh, a city in the Pakistani province of Punjab. The electricity had gone off, as outages are common in Pakistan. I was sitting below a huge tree. The compound gate was open. Suddenly, I saw a delegation coming down the road, led by the Islamic clerics—a huge group of them. I stood up to welcome them. I invited them to come into the courtyard. Unfortunately, they refused. They were very aggressive.
“Close your school immediately,” they told me. “You have co-education. You are giving wrong values. We are going to bomb it.”
In the group, there was one Muslim boy. “But Maulana Sahib,” he said, “the daughter of the local Maulana comes here for physiotherapy and they (the Christians) give it free of cost.” The Maulana (Muslim cleric) didn’t know what to say. He just walked away.
The immediate threat was over—but just by chance. I went into the church and looked at the crucifix: “Thank you, Jesus, for protecting us.”
I reflected on the incident. Here I was trying to get children to school. Now there was a threat to bomb the school. If I tell the parents that a delegation has given this threat, then the parents will not send their children to school. If I keep it a secret from parents, then what will I do if the school is attacked? I said a short prayer. I put my trust in Jesus’ suffering rather than in fear of the attackers. But these choices must be made daily.
We have to have strong faith when we work in challenging areas. We have to believe in Jesus. We have to believe in the cross. Those values alone will stand us in good stead.
We must have a spirituality that says no to war, no to militarization, no to weapons. All this talk of fighting the other has to end. Unless we go down the peaceful path, there will be no end to this killing, bomb blasts, death. Instead, let us teach and promote a culture of peace.