Glasgow Presbytery twinned with the Diocese of Hyderabad, Pakistan
Congregations in the Presbytery of Glasgow are actively involved with the World Church in many diverse ways, but until recently they had not embraced the Twinning Programme. The Presbytery decided to encourage congregations to do so by twinning at Presbytery level, and now the Presbytery is in the process of twinning with the Diocese of Hyderabad, which is part of the United Church of Pakistan.
The Diocese is in the province of Sindh, situated in the very south of Pakistan, bordering India. It is a small Diocese with only 26 parishes, but otherwise has similarities with Glasgow Presbytery, which has well over 100 parishes. The Diocese and the Presbytery are both centred on large cities with an industrial heritage, universities and teaching hospitals. Both have parishes in rural areas and their populations have some of the poorest people in the country as well as high rates of unemployment.
Christians in Pakistan are very much a minority and practice their faith in very difficult situations. They are frequently discriminated against and subjected to violence. Despite all these difficulties the Diocese continues to publicly serve others, particularly the poorest in the wider community, by supporting schools and community hospitals and planting churches in the tribal areas. This difference was one of the main reasons Glasgow decided to twin – what an opportunity to learn what is it like to be a Christian living in a minority situation, and what a chance to support our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
In November 2019, four members of Presbytery spent eight days in Sindh getting to know the people there and building relationships. It was a privilege to worship, preach and share communion with our brothers and sisters. Worship was joyful, with psalms being sung in Urdu. Some buildings are a legacy from the British Raj, but in the tribal lands there are mainly traditional round buildings with thatched rooves where the faithful crowd in.
The group also visited schools, and Kunri Hospital, which is supported by the Diocese and has been supported financially by the Church of Scotland for several years. The hospital now specialises in gynaecology and obstetrics. Infant mortality in the area is amongst the highest in the world; there are four doctors working hard, training community midwives and helping large numbers of women give birth.
The Scottish team was greatly encouraged by the great kindness and generous hospitality received from everyone we met. We were frequently challenged and humbled by the strong Christian faith demonstrated alongside a desire to evangelise through serving the marginalised of all faiths. People consistently asked to be remembered in prayer. The strength of belief in the power of prayer was challenging and should encourage us in the Church of Scotland to reflect on our own prayer life.
Glasgow Presbytery has learned much about faith in action and hope. Twinning with Hyderabad will provide a framework for joint working and support for each other. Representatives from Hyderabad have been invited to visit Glasgow next year, when a Twinning Agreement will be finalised and mark the beginning of a fruitful relationship.