Dr. Christy Munir, president of the International Protestant Church in Pakistan, suffered a severed artery in his right shoulder, a broken leg, severe burns and a pierced lung in a grenade attack on his church that left five people dead and 45 others wounded on March 17, 2002.
Munir underwent multiple surgeries in Pakistan and is undergoing more medical treatment in the United States for nerve injuries as a result of the attack. He said, however, he did not feel hatred toward his attackers, who were Muslim militants.
"I absolutely have no bitterness against them," Munir told CNSNews.com. "My best friends are Muslims. All I am saying is that we have to somehow or the other teach them and teach ourselves the element of tolerance, the element of forbearance and the element of plurality. That is what I want there."
At a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday, Munir called on congressional leaders to support efforts to restore the administration of schools in Pakistan that were taken over by the Muslim government in 1972 to their original Christian administrators.
"Let us fight terrorism through quality education back in Pakistan. Let us make Muslims better Muslims through our educational institutions, which are known for quality education and human values," said Munir, a retired professor of chemistry at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
An American woman and her 17-year-old daughter died in the attack at the diplomatic enclave, which was one of a string of terror incidents involving Christian institutions.
During the past 15 months, six Christian institutions, including schools, hospitals and churches in Pakistan, have been attacked, Munir reported.
Munir said he supported the Bush administration's military war on terrorism, which he said also has the wholehearted support of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
However, the future of a nation depends on quality education, which is now rare in Pakistan, Munir said. An entire generation has been denied quality education after the Pakistan government nationalized private educational institutions in 1972, including Presbyterian, Anglican and Catholic schools, Munir said.
Recently, the government returned some primary and secondary schools to the churches. But colleges that are mainly the property of the Presbyterian Church USA, including 10 schools and two college campuses, are still mainly under government control, Munir said. Christians make up about two percent of Pakistan's 140 million people, who are mostly Muslim.
Other analysts warned that the situation involving Christians in Pakistan could get worse.
"Once you go to war with Iraq, Christians are going to be slaughtered right and left," said Victor Gill, a spokesman for the Christian Voice of Pakistan, who accompanied Munir.
Gill said there could be no reformation of Muslim societies without re-interpretation of Islamic religious texts that condemn pluralism and diversity. The belief that Islam is supreme is the root of Muslim hatred toward other religions, he said. Also, Islam is the only religion that prescribes death for male apostates and humiliation and - in some cases - rape for female apostates, he said.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the practice of associating suicide bombings and other acts of violence against civilian targets with Islamic
teachings has become a "cottage industry," particularly since 9/11.
"Our position is that it's not Islam that needs to be changed, it's Muslim behavior and Muslim adherence to Islamic principles," Hooper said. "Islam isn't the problem. When someone commits an act of violence against civilians or something of that nature, he does it in spite of Islam, not because of it."
When it comes to atrocities, "there's enough blame to go around in the world, and when you just determine that one group of people in the world is intrinsically evil, it leads to real problems, as we saw in Nazi Germany," Hooper said.