Skip to main content

On Pakistan's Reception of Christian Thought

Interview With Philosopher Angela Ales Bello

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2004 (Zenit) - After a short stay in Pakistan, a professor of history of philosophy at the Lateran University agreed to share her impressions on the reception of Christian thought in that country.

Angela Ales Bello had been invited by Bishop Anthony Lobo of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi to explain to various sectors of Pakistani society that the West is interested in Muslim culture. About 96% of Pakistan's 140 million people are Muslim.

Q: Why did you decide to leave the Lateran University for a time and go to lecture in Pakistan?

Ales Bello: I was invited by the bishop, Monsignor Lobo, who wished to establish contact with Muslim universities and give proof of the presence of European Christian thought in the territory of Pakistan.

In fact, we found that culture in Pakistan is quite linked to Western thought. Naturally there are some communities that are more strictly Muslim, but in Islamabad's National University of Modern Languages and in Kinnairdr Women's College, where I gave some lectures, Western thought is known.

Catholic schools offer studies linked to Western and American culture. Of course, I am also referring to elementary schools and high schools.

I did not see such a strong Muslim presence, although there is teaching of Islam.

It must be noted that the language of Pakistan is not Arabic but Urdu, and the people of the areas I visited were of Indian origin. Even the underlying culture is not Arabic; they know it because they have to study it. Islam was superimposed on a pre-existing culture.

The purpose of my trip was to have them see that a delegation had come from the West to engage in dialogue -- I was traveling with van der Veken, a professor emeritus of Leuven -- and that the European cultural realm is interested in the Muslim world.

Q: Are Muslim students of Pakistan interested in Christian philosophy?

Ales Bello: Yes, very much so. They are also interested in philosophy in general. Both the existing Catholic communities as well as the Muslim are very interested in questions of philosophic anthropology, ethics and pedagogy.

Q: Was it easy to speak about Jesus in front of Muslims?

Ales Bello: It was not easy. And when there was a Muslim presence, we tried to avoid it explicitly.

In a center dedicated to dialogue between Christians and Muslims, we had some difficulty because they accept Jesus only as a prophet. However, in regard to spiritual problems, the existence of God, openness to the religious dimension, there is consensus and agreement.

Q: You also spoke of Edith Stein and they seemed to be very interested. Do you think this confirms the universality of this philosopher's thought?

Ales Bello: I mentioned her explicitly and implicitly to the Muslims, not as a saint, of course, but as a philosopher, and they were very interested. Not all of them knew about her: The Christians to a degree, the Muslims not at all. The young women were very interested.

Women in Pakistan have a degree of social integration, especially at the higher levels, and if their situation is not too disastrous. In the lower social spheres, the condition of women is difficult. In any case, there are professors, deans of university faculties and women in public offices.

Q: What must be done to exchange "culture" with Muslim countries?

Ales Bello: It is complicated to have them come here. It might be possible to go back, but it also depends on the political situation.

In our case, we were given a good reception at all levels. We have already sent the texts of our lectures and they can publish them, if they wish. At least, they have told us that this is their intention.


Catholic Online
htp://  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Muslim, Christian, Pakistan

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article


Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Colossians 1:9-14
That is why, ever since the day he told us, we have never ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Yahweh has made known his saving power, revealed his saving ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:1-11
Now it happened that he was standing one day by the Lake of ... Read More

Saint of the Day

September 3 Saint of the Day

Pope Saint Gregory the Great
September 3: St. Gregory, born at Rome about the year 540, was the son ... Read More