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Archbishop Receives Pakistan Minister of Religious Affairs

Tuesday 18th July 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, received Pakistan's Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and minorities, HE Mohammad Ijaz-ul-Haq, at Lambeth Palace this morning.

The meeting came as the latest in a series of contacts with the President, Prime Minister and other members of the Government of Pakistan initiated during Dr Williams' visit to Pakistan in November last year. The Archbishop thanked the Minister for the warm reception he had received in Pakistan.

During the meeting Dr Williams and Mr Ijaz-ul-Haq discussed matters of mutual interest including measures taken by the Pakistan Government to further improve inter Faith harmony in the country.

The Minister updated the Archbishop on progress in the Government's plans to set up Minority Commission Committees throughout the country at district level to promote dialogue between different communities. These committees comprise religious leaders of different religions, Nazims (Mayors), District Police Officers and District Coordination Officers. The Archbishop declared that he "was greatly encouraged by the positive progress in these initiatives, bringing together local civil and religious leaders to tackle local issues". He viewed them as a concrete example of the Federal Government's commitment to value the contribution of all citizens to the country's future.

Dr Williams expressed his satisfaction at the Minister's statement that the official enquiry into the Sangla Hills incident last year had been concluded and a report produced.

The Archbishop said that he was:

"very pleased to have the Minister's assurances that, following the incidents at Sangla Hills and in Sukkur, the government was funding the reconstruction of the churches and was arranging for compensation to be paid."

The Minister also informed the Archbishop that under the Madrassa Reforms Programme, over 11000 madrassas have been registered in Pakistan. The Government has also introduced modern education up to grade 10 in all madrassas under ITMD [Ittehad Tanzeemat Madaras-e-Deenya], he said. With the revised curriculum these madrassas have been linked to the mainstream education system. Mr Ijaz-ul-Haq thanked the Archbishop for arranging for a group of madrassa leaders from Pakistan to be hosted at Lambeth Palace during their visit to the UK in February.

The Archbishop advised the Minister that the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Dr David James, would be leading a delegation to Pakistan from 24 August to 3 September. The Minister received the news warmly, offering to facilitate meetings and agreeing that such exchanges should be encouraged and played an important part in the developing dialogue between communities.

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