Lost cooperation between faiths

After Sept. 11, it was immediately recognized that measures had to be taken to prevent the harassment of Muslim communities in Western countries. In the event, there have been tensions but very little such abuse. However, the massacre (of Christians) at Bahawalpur in Pakistan is a reminder that the more serious problem for religious minorities may lie in Muslim rather than in Western lands.

In part this is because it was already the case that Christians outside the West -- in Hindu India and communist China as well as in parts of the Muslim world -- face various degrees of discrimination and persecution. The Pope's visit to India in 1999 caused a storm in that country, while the Chinese authorities have dealt with new evangelical Christian groups as ruthlessly as with Falun Gong. But the plight of Christians in some Muslim countries is especially to be deplored because it represents a falling away from more tolerant past practices.

What is in danger of being lost in both the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent is the memory of a better era, when cooperation between faiths, however spotted in practice, was part of political culture, and objectives were defined in such a way as to engage the loyalty of all.