20 September 2001
Due to the uncertainties following the September 11 attacks on the US, CMS missionaries in Pakistan are leaving the country and will return to Australia by the end of September. Many expatriates are leaving Pakistan with a number of embassies having issued general evacuation orders.
A number of ministries have been temporarily put on hold.
The Board of Murree Christian School (MCS), decided to temporarily close the school with plans to re-open in stages from 4 February 2002. The school's director and CMS missionary Russell Morton said, "Responding to concerns among staff, parents and students we took the decision last Friday, 14 September to close the boarding hostels and send students back to their parents."
MCS, located in the north of Pakistan provides education and boarding for children of missionaries who are working in Pakistan and surrounding countries. With a number of students' parents located in Afghanistan, tension was already high at the school following the expulsion of workers from that troubled nation. Anxiety escalated in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. CMS missionaries and teachers at the school David and Georgina Newmarch said, "We felt that it is best if the students are in the care of their families at this time of uncertainty. Even though most of us don't feel in any immediate personal danger, stress levels are pretty high and nobody seems to be able to learn much."
It's a very difficult time for the students who had to pack up and be ready to leave in about 24 hours. It is particularly difficult for the senior students who won't be returning to Murree. Some are preparing for their final exams for university entrance. It's also hard for departing missionaries whose hearts are with the people of Pakistan. The Director of the school and CMS missionary Russell Morton said, "We join as a world-wide community in prayer for a speedy and just resolution to this situation."
Also on hold is the work of an ESL Centre for Afghan refugees in Islamabad. CMS missionary Grant Lock is the Director the centre. He and his wife Janna said that staff have now returned to their home countries and the team has not yet decided when the centre will re-open. Grant and Janna ask that Christians in Australia pray for the leaders of Pakistan as it's possible that there will be conflict between moderate and radical Muslims within the country. They also ask for prayer that Muslims everywhere will not be marginalised by the rest of the world as a result of a terrorist minority.