‘Pakistan is going through turmoil’

James Channan, Prior Vice-Provincial of Ibn-e-Mariam, vice province of Pakistan gets candid in an interview

Source: curia.op.org

Dominican Father James Channan, Prior Vice-Provincial of Ibn-e-Mariam, vice province of Pakistan speaks about the challenges in carrying out his mission in the country in the following interview. He gave the interview while attending his congregation’s general chapter in Rome recently.

Is this your first Chapter?

No, in fact it is my third Elective General Chapter as Prior Vice Provincial of the Ibn-e-Mariam, Vice Province of Pakistan. It has been a grace-filled coincidence and I feel fortunate to participate in three Elective General Chapters: in Mexico City, Mexico in 1992, in Providence College, Providence, USA in 2001 and now Rome in 2010. Besides these I have also participated in the General Chapter in Bogota, Columbia in 2007.


The participation in such General Chapters of the Dominican Order of Preachers have enlightened my heart and mind as they give me great exposure to the entire leadership of the Dominican Order from all around the world. In these Chapters I have experienced the mechanism of how the Master of the Order is elected, how consultation is done, how the names are proposed, how the priorities are set, and how challenges surfaced, and what response we can have to meet these challenges, and to make our mission as Dominicans in the whole world. It is great spiritual experience as well to see the mission of St Dominic going on for the last 800 years. As you know, the Dominican Order is present in 102 countries in serving God, and the people of God in so many ways and apostolates.


While working in the Church, and as members of the Order of Preachers, we preach the kingdom of God, and the centrality of Christ. Coming to gather here in Rome from all around the globe is a very blessed time when we as Capitulars, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will choose our next Master of the Order for a period of nine years.


For me it has been a tremendous experience to see the Capitulars coming from all around the world, and I have experienced a great sense of being a member of the Dominican family. I experience that we are together as one family no matter where we come from: East, West, North, or South. Our father St Dominic, has made us brothers of one another, and for that I feel proud.


What perspective do you bring as Vice Provincial of Pakistan?


The Vice Province was born on 4th of December, 1982, because of the hard work of very dedicated Dominican missionaries from the Roman Province, Italy, and St Joseph Province of the USA, who had been labouring in Pakistan for several decades. The Italian Dominicans came to the territory which is Pakistan today in 1931 followed by the American Dominicans in 1956. I pay rich tribute to these missionaries who gave so many years of their life to Pakistan.


Pakistan is a country with 180 million people, of whom 96% are Muslim, and 2% Christians. Our Dominicans are serving the Church and the people of God in Pakistan through different apostolates such as in the parishes, schools, promoting justice & peace, visiting prisoners in jail, youth groups, and inter-religious and Christian- Muslim dialogue . Inter-religious dialogue is one of our priorities in Pakistan because we are surrounded by Muslims, and we are very much encouraged by Vatican and papal documents and Acts of the Dominican General Chapters and Acts of our Vice Provincial Chapters.


The documents and programs organized by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue inspire us, guide us, and lead us to reach out for dialogue with the people of all religions. We must reach out to others to make this world making it a more peaceful and humane place, with respect for all.


So, coming to the Chapter I bring this perspective that the Order as a whole should keep on emphasizing our mission of preaching, teaching, inter-religious dialogue, community building and justice and peace. I hope that our up coming leadership we will choose will further inspire us to enhance these apostolates.


I feel that the future is very promising for our Vice Province. We have 36 professed friars, 4 novices and 22 young aspirants. That gives us great hope. Our life is challenging and difficult but with the grace of God, we are confident and keep on giving a Dominican witness of Christ in our land.


What challenges do you face in carrying out this mission?


At present, Pakistan is going through a lot of turmoil. It is very unfortunate that our country has become a land which is confronted with the challenge of fanaticism, terrorism, and violence. The 9/11 incident happened only once in the USA, but we are faced with such 9/11 every day in our country. Public places, markets, schools, hospitals, places of worship, such as mosques, shrines of Muslim saints, and our churches have been attacked quite frequently, in which thousands of people have lost their lives. There is no place in Pakistan right now that we can say is a safe place. It seems as every place in Pakistan is an easy target of terrorists. These terrorists and suicide bombers do not respect their own lives and they do not respect lives of the others. They blow themselves up, and attack others whether they are men, women or children. Seeing such uncertainties and disturbance in the country it is important that we bring a healing presence to the people of Pakistan and change the mindset of these terrorists. Our religion and that of Muslims do not give such teachings of terrorism and killing of others. These religions, and of course other religions, teach respect for life, peace and acceptance of others and respect for all.


At this time when the future seems very dark, and people feel helpless, we as Pakistani Christians and Dominicans have a very important role to play and that is the role of bringing hope to our people. In our country we are the salt of the earth and light of the world. Muslims of Pakistan know that Christians are very firm in the faith, and that we follow the Christ who forgave others and loved his enemies. We do not respond to violence with violence or hatred with hatred. We have a prophetic role to play in Pakistan to bring healing to wounded humanity. We are called upon to play our full role to create a culture of love, peace, care and justice. Our model is Christ who said “Love one another as I have loved you”


The Church in Pakistan is a suffering Church, and attacks against Christians have increased recently. Our churches, schools, hospitals and schools have been attacked and over 300 houses of Christians in Shanti Nagar, Korian Wala, Sangla Hill and Gojra etc. have been burnt by the fanatics. This is our situation: dangerous and uncertain. However, as I have said earlier we are people of hope, and we hope that one day we will overcome. In spite of all these sufferings the Christians of Pakistan have very strong faith.


The people of Pakistan are enduring their worst natural disaster at this moment. What has it been like, and how can the Dominican Family help?


2010 has seen the worst floods of our history caused by the monsoon rains. The deluge of rain and the devastating floods are the worse in the history of Pakistan, and perhaps the world. As a result, 20 million people have become victims of these floods. They have lost their homes, livestock, and crops. And the area which is affected by the floods is larger than the entire territory of the United Kingdom! The damage done to our country by these deadly rains and floods is more than that of all three calamities of earthquakes in Haiti, the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, and the Asian Tsunami.


These floods have also tremendously affected our Dominican family in Pakistan. Our houses, schools, and convents have also been damaged. Over 100 members of our Dominican laity have been severely affected in various villages, like the Holy Rosary Parish of Warispura, and a Christian village, Khushpur and around Jhang. In addition, crops like cotton and maize have been destroyed, and famine has been predicted for next year.


In this situation, the Vice Province of Pakistan has established a committee of 4 friars, 2 sisters, and 2 lay Dominicans. We are reaching out, and making personal visits and giving relief items both in cash and in kind. So far, we have helped 36 members of the Dominican laity, and another 30 Christians and around 400 Muslim families by providing food items, medicine, tents and cash to them. The situation caused by this flood needs long-term planning. They need medicine, rehabilitation, and food.


I want to express my gratitude to the members of the Dominican family who have expressed their solidarity with us, are praying for us, and have also sent in generous donations to help these people, particularly members of the Dominican family who are affected by these rains and floods. God bless them!


Please pray for the Dominican family which is our family in Pakistan and if you would like to help and donate to our Dominican relief work in Pakistan, contact the following address:


Fr James Channan OP

Prior Vice Provincial

Ibn-e-Mariam, Vice Province Pakistan

153 Ali Block

New Garden Town

Lahore 54600 Pakistan

Cell: +92-300-8730 669

Phone: +92-42-35844 207

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