After an exhausting 20 hour or so trip from Atlanta to Lahore, Pakistan, after our first night in the lovely Guesthouse of the Presbyterian education board, we were warmly greeted by members of the board on Wednesday morning with flower garlands, big smiles and greetings of hello in English and Salim, or Peace, in Urdu.
We met with leaders there, Veeda Javaid, the amazing lady who heads the Presbyterian education board oversight of Presbyterian Christian schools across Pakistan, the Reverend Dr. Majid Abel, Former moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, current stated clerk of the denomination, and pastor of the Naulakha Presbyterian Church. We were given an overview of the church, the schools, the day ahead, and then our 10 day period together.
After a full lunch we rested three hours still jetlagged and then at 5 o’clock were welcomed to an ecumenical dinner which was really a big time event. It happened that our visit was coinciding with the return by the government of Pakistan of three Christian schools which were confiscated by the government 50 years ago. These three schools are being returned to the churches, two of them Presbyterian, one Roman Catholic.
It was a big media event with private and public news outlets covering. In attendance were the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church for Pakistan, the Bishop of the Anglican church of Pakistan, The vice president and administration from Forman Christian College and a number of other dignitaries. All of them welcomed the Pakistani minister for minority and religious affairs who formally announce the return of the school properties to the churches.
I have learned that the Presbyterian Church, was a major leader, perhaps the major leader, of bringing Christianity to Pakistan beginning in 1854. Even today the Presbyterian Church USA is a major land owner of church properties across Pakistan. The Presbyterian Church is the main protestant church of Pakistan. As we learned, these properties have been tied up in court proceedings for decades and generations. There are still contentions over who has right to the properties. As we were told, mafia figures in the Pakistan population have tried and sometimes succeeded in getting control of these properties. As we were told, the churches have had to spend untold dollars in legal proceedings that could have gone to Gospel ministries.
After a full day, we were back to our guest house for a restful evening. As I arose early this morning about 4:00 a.m. feeling fully rested I am hearing in the distance the Muslim prayer cries as the vast city of over 2 million people awakens.
Rev. Dr. Hurley