. . . . . .  


Bishop Emeritus Dr Alexander Malik, Mrs Shamim Malik, and friends of this wonderful couple.

For the second time in my life Bishop Malik had paid me a singular, undeserved compliment. The first was in November 2005 when he invited me – a Muslim - to give the welcome address to Dr                Rowan Williams, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. 

The second honour is today, when he has asked me to say a few words about his book My Pakistan: The Story of a Bishop.

Unlike the heavy lunch you will soon enjoy, this is a lean book. If you exclude 24 pages of Ecclesiastical terms, Footnotes, and Index, it is 234 pages long. Yet, within those pages are compressed 74 years – the span of Dr Alexander’s life until now.

And what an extraordinary life it has been! There is not enough time this afternoon, nor are there enough pages in any book, to recount all of Dr Alexander Malik’s experiences, his achievements, his religious motivations, his patriotic convictions, his pastoral successes, and his ceaseless endeavours to promote inter-faith harmony.

Dr Malik’s book in a way is a teaser – it conceals more than it reveals.  I longed to learn more about the time he became aware of his calling to serve not only God but God specifically in Pakistan.

Through its pages, I sympathised with his loneliness at being stranded in Kolkata during the 1965 war.

I rejoiced with him when at the unusually young age of 36 – the same age when Jesus at Calvary answered a higher calling – Dr Malik assumed the Bishopric of Lahore. He stayed there to celebrate a historic 32 years in that august seat.

I shed a tear with him when in 2009 he stood in the ruins of St Denys’ School in Murree after it had been incinerated not once but twice by vandals. In his book he writes with moving candour: 

I found a corner in the burnt building and stood there wondering what had happened. I wept before the Lord like a baby and asked Him why such a nasty thing had happened to St. Denys’. Nobody could see me. I wanted to be alone with the Lord seeking His guidance on why it happened.’

Dr Malik found his answers in the Bible. The Gospel of John (11:35) tells us that Jesus wept before the resurrection of Lazarus. The prophet Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. And in the words of St. Augustine whose homily forms the crescendo of this book:

‘Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.’

Dr Malik and his colleagues worked. Together they rebuilt and resurrected St Denys.  Dr Malik noticed:

A creeper on the main wall facing the playground had burnt down in the fire. To my surprise, it had sprouted again and spread over the whole wall as ever before. I took it as a sign of the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise given to me on the day I wept and cried to Him for help and guidance after the first fire. Like the creeper on the wall, St. Denys’, too, had sprouted out of a heap of rubble and ashes.’

That creeper was today’s equivalent of the rod of Aaron. Numbers 17:8 reminds us that it ‘put forth buds, produced blossoms.’

Dr Malik’s successes are myriad and manifold - St Thomas’s church in Islamabad, his stewardship to protect Evacuee and Church property against state and private marauders, his advocacy against the nationalisation of FCC College and other schools, his pastoral care of a beleaguered, scattered flock of his faith spread across over Pakistan, and his enduring patriotism love for Pakistan both for what it is, and despite what it is.

Throughout the years of his often turbulent ministry, Dr Malik had the support and friendship of his lovely wife Shamim. Their marriage justifies Alexander’s early decision not to join the Oxford Mission Community. The argument Dr Malik gave to its Father Superior then was: 

Fathers do not get married, and I want to get married, so I cannot join the community.” The father superior said, “Jesus did not marry; if you want to serve Him you also should not. You can serve the Lord better by being single.”

I responded, “But I am not Jesus”.’

Jesus should have lived long enough to experience, as Alexander and Shamim have done, the miracle of a happy marriage, of the joy of rearing children, and playing with grandchildren.

Dr Malik has spent his life demonstrating by example to us Muslims that although Islam and Christianity may differ in their disparate approaches to worship, both look up to the same universal God.  Muslims and Christians worship laterally; their belief though is vertical - in one Supreme God.    

As this is such a joyous event, let me conclude with a light-hearted anecdote. It is about the actor Woody Allen. He had taken a speed reading course. He was given Tolstoy’s War & Peace to read. Woody Allen finished its 1,225 pages in 3 minutes.

“What is it about, then?” his friends challenged.

“Oh, it’s about … Russia.”

To prove that Dr Malik’s book My Pakistan is more than about his life or about the panel of white on our flag representing all the minorities in our country, I will end by asking you a few questions.

How many of you are Christians?

How many are you are Muslims?

How many of you are Zoroastrians, or profess another faith?



If you want to know, that is the core, the enduring message of Dr Malik’s inspiring book.



17 December 2018
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