Fr. Dr. James Channan OP, another article published in German magazine 'Forum Welkirche'."Who is my neighbor?

It was so inspiring and encouraging at the same time to hear the explanation of our Pope Francis, said: "Oh, how I want a poor church for the poor" This statement really deeply touched my heart and soul. When I look around me and the situation of Christians in Pakistan reflective, then this statement is very true and our Pope also significant. It reveals the reality of our situation in Pakistan. The message of Pope Francis Christ can be experienced in our midst. It calls on us to make their way to the poor.

Poverty and the wealth of Jesus

The message of Pope Francis reflects very much the life and preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was himself poor. When we read about the life of Jesus and reflect, we realize that he was very poor, economically speaking. His parents were poor. His mother Mary belonged to a very poor family, his father Joseph was also poor, a carpenter who had to work hard to feed his family. We know that Jesus was accustomed to his father at work helfen.Wir can read anywhere that Jesus lived a luxurious life. He was a simple, poor man, he had no land, no palace, no servants and no arable land. He was a poor man who needed no soldiers or bodyguards who protected him. He stood with both feet on the ground, and it was easy to reach him. The people felt comfortable to approach him, talk to him in search of mercy, to ask for the forgiveness of sins, to ask for healing, so they asked him even to raise the dead to life. We will find a wealth of evidence of such events undWunderberichte in the Gospels. Jesus himself did not have the necessary financial resources to feed the crowd. Rather, he simply asked his disciples, how much food they had there. With the five loaves and two fishes, as we read in Matthew that Jesus blessed, was finally a crowd of over 5000 people, men, women and children are saturated (Mt 14:13-21; cf. Mt 15.32 to 39 ).

Jesus also had no boat. He went with the boats of His disciples. He rode on a donkey that did not belong to him, in the city of Jerusalem. The Last Supper was prepared by someone else. These are all indications that Jesus had led a very simple life. And as for Jesus himself says: "The foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Mt, 8-20).

Despite all this material deprivations, Jesus was very rich in mercy, compassion, in forgiveness of others in the healing of the sick, in the adoption of the downtrodden and oppressed, the marginalized, the untouchables, the dying and the sick. Jesus has so much to offer because of his wealth, his love and compassion. Sometimes condemned Jesus even the rich material such as the rich young man, who was not able to follow Jesus because he was connected to his material wealth too, and could not let him go. Jesus sees the danger when someone is being held captive by his material wealth and therefore warns his disciples, "A rich man is hard to get into the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God "(Mt 19,23 f)..

Many people in Pakistan are suffering from poverty and exclusion. Most of them are Muslims. The photo shows people on a garbage dump in  Abottabad live and search for useable. PHOTO: KNA-IMAGEThe mission of Jesus

To proclaim the Good News to the poor was the real mission of Jesus Christ. And it is said in the Gospel: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to the poor, I bring good news, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight:. To let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord "(Luke 4:18 -19)

This passage of the Gospel explains the purpose and agenda of the mission of Jesus. He was sent to the poor, prisoners and oppressed. All the people who fall under this category were the target of the mission of Jesus. Christ loved the poor. Because they longed for justice, they need acceptance, respect, and they longed for dignity in their lives. And it requires the distance to material things that keep us from following Jesus. Jesus comforts the poor and weak when he says:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. "(Mt 5.3 to 6)

The Pakistani Church has a long history. It is a story of a church that was ever seen in all the times financially poor. We are very proud that our roots go back to the first century. According to tradition, it was the Apostle Thomas himself, who has penetrated into what is now Pakistan, to preach in the years 45-52 AD, the word of God and to proclaim the Good News. According to tradition, it was the site of Sir co-op near Texila (about an hour's drive from the capital Islamabad today), where St. Thomas has done.
When we look back and the life and history of the Church in Pakistan watch us, we will see that it was the poor of this country, weak and marginalized, discriminated and despised by the rich, who accepted the message of Jesus and Christianity embraced. They were baptized and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The dialogue is of great importance in Pakistan. Christians, Muslims and Hindus pray at the Press Club in Lahore for the recovery of Malala Yousafzai who was shot for their dedication to the education of girls of Taliban and seriously injured. (Fifth from the left: Fr James Channan OP, Director of the Center for Peace and the Dominican author of this article). PHOTO: JAMES ChannanChristians in Pakistan

Christians are an indispensable part of the movement of Pakistan's independence, its progress and its success. Politically, there were Christians such as SP Singha, spokesman for the Punjab Assembly Legaslative, C. Gibbons, Joshua Fazal Din and Chandul Lall, side by side with Muhammad Ali Jinnah - have fought - the founder of Pakistan. Christians have played a very important role for the province of Punjab is a part of Pakistan, because their votes were crucial to ensure that the Muslim League received the necessary majority. And it was finally with SP Singha, a Christian speaker, who in 1945 proclaimed the victory of the Muslim League.

Today Punjab is the largest and most important province of Pakistan. 110 million of the 180 million citizens of the country live in the province of Punjab. 75 percent of the approximately 3.5 million Pakistani Christians also live in Punjab. Also, most priests and religious of the church come from the Pakistani Punjab.

Many leaders of the country who are Christians also come from the Punjab. For example, Shahbaz Bhatti, who belonged to the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs of the Federal Government on 02 March, however, was shot dead by extremists in 2011, Julius Salik, state minister for minorities, Peter John Sohtra, Member of the National Assembly, Paul Bhatti, former advisor to the Prime Minister, etc. In the history of Pakistan's Christians played an important role both in the army leadership and the judiciary. Mention at this point is necessarily AR Cornelius. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was he who had prepared the draft of the Constitution of Pakistan, which was then placed under President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto into force in 1973. But also in the field of music and the art of Pakistan, there are many famous persons, all of whom are Christians.

The influence of the Christian churches in Pakistan is certainly due to the importance of some of their training Lund training facilities that have become a national symbol for the education and training system. The Foreman Christian College (University) in Lahore, St. Patrick's College, Karachi, La Salle Schools, Jesus and Mary and the Presentation Sister Schools Schools nationwide have a very high reputation for their excellent training they offer. With regard to the training standards not be compromised. Most Christian schools and colleges serve the masses of the poor, both Christians and Muslims. Significantly, these training facilities not only by Christians but also by Muslims will be greatly appreciated. This praise the high standard of education and the moral values ​​that are taught there. Many famous Muslim politician in the country have all studied at Christian educational institutions. Among them include, among others, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Yousuf Raza Gilani; mention are also the State President Pervaiz Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari and the ehemlige President of the Supreme Court, Nasim Hasan Shaw.

There are two types of schools that are run by the Christian churches. Firstly, those in which the language of instruction is English and the schools and educational institutions where the language of instruction is Urdu. Especially the latter are educational institutions that are aimed at the masses of the poor. These institutions can not bear, because the students would not have the money to pay school fees. A very high proportion of students are Muslims. Even if it is difficult to Christian churches, ensure the maintenance of these schools, as they are for us an important testimony as a Christian community, sent to the poor.

A church of the poor to be for the poor, also poses many problems, such as discrimination, oppression, false accusations, etc. - all things that are not unknown to us. We have learned to live in these difficult and challenging situations. Sometimes our life seems to be in danger, but we are not afraid to bear witness of Christ our Lord. Loudly we protest against injustice, we must learn. And this is also questioned, both on a national and international level. While we live as Pakistanis in Pakistan, we will continue to play our role to build our nation and bring all only necessary services which lead to a nation arises, in which none is more discriminated against.

A church that advocates for the poor, are always sees protests against discrimination and harassment. But for James Channan not only Christians the target of discrimination and harassment. Many Muslims in Pakistan suffer the same fate and are victims of an unjust class system, terrorism and fanaticism. The photo shows violent riots against Christians at 09 March 2013 in Lahore. PHOTO: KNA-IMAGEInterreligious dialogue - an integral part of the mission of the Church

Allow me to another important field in today's Pakistan designate, despite some hostility to the Christian experience in a high appreciation and esteem: it is the inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The Christian Study Center in Rawalpindi and the Dominican Peace Center in Lahore are nationally known and recognized. But also internationally experienced both centers a high appreciation for the important task of dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Pakistan. I myself was three times Vice-Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Vice-Ibne Mariam and over 15 years consultant to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Vatican's Commission for Relations with Muslims. Since 2010 I am the Director of the Center for Peace in the Dominican Lahore. The dialogue is an essential part of peace work in Pakistan. For me it is a great honor that Dr. Georg Evers introduced me in this magazine in the issue March / April 2013 as the "pioneer of inter-religious dialogue in Pakistan." For about 30 years I am involved already in interreligious dialogue. For me, this dialogue is an essential part of the mission of the Church. The dialogue is an instrument to promote mutual respect between Christians and Muslims, but also cooperation.

The legacy of St. Thomas, apostle to the Gentiles, was continued by missionaries such as the Franciscans, the Capuchins, the Dominicans and the Jesuits, and many women religious. This country is very rich in faith. The Church of the poor is strong. And she is engaged in a variety of apostolates: education, preaching, dialogue, evangelization, pastoral, youth, women, children, justice and peace, faith formation, service to the poor, living in poverty, marginalized, the sick, orphans and prisoners. In Pakistan, the church as an institution does not understand a faith community that is only because their members. Rather, it goes to people of all religious communities to Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians and indigenous peoples. Much importance to dialogue with Muslims attached, which make up 96 percent of our population. Most Muslims are also very poor and many of them are also discriminated against. There are many examples and incidents of injustices suffered by these Muslims. They are victims of an unjust class system, terrorism and fanaticism. In this context, we must ask ourselves: How can we fulfill Jesus' command, when he tells us, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. Similarly, the second is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets "(Mt 22:37-40).. But who is our neighbor? My neighbor is a Christian and non-Christian as well. My neighbors are Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and members of other religious communities. With all of them I come into daily contact. This is also the reason why the social services of the Christians such as education, health care, aid to victims of floods and earthquakes, as well as the service are not reserved to the sick Christians, but to all those around us. By helping the poor and needy around us, we feel that we fulfill the command of Christ, who taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves

Allow healing

In the context of Pakistan, there are so many places and situations that need healing. The point is to promote respect for each other, mutual understanding and dialogue among people of different religions, especially Christians and Muslims. In this context, we see very clearly that our poor church is a church of the poor. By highlighting the dialogue between Christians and Muslims at all levels of life, we realize the mission of Jesus Christ. And there are many challenges and obstacles in our apostolate of the dialogue. But we, despite our suffering, sometimes discriminated against by others, sometimes misunderstood, be our apostolate, to promote dialogue and harmony, never give Christians. Meanwhile, the importance of dialogue in the society in Pakistan is perceived and dialogue groups have been established throughout the country. To allow healing, forgiveness, a positive understanding for each other to go to the marginalized and underprivileged, is an integral part of our mission as a church throughout Pakistan.

A poor church for the poor in Pakistan

The message of our Pope inspired us greatly, so that we reflect our new mission, our option for the poor. In them we find Christ, who told us: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink: I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and you came to me ... What you did for the least of my brethren, you did it to me "(Mt 25. 35 ff.). So if we the poor, needy, helpless and marginalized help around us, then we will help Christ himself we can not remove from us the poor around us. We need to belong to them.

Jesus has commanded us to separate ourselves from material goods and to be poor for the poor: "Take nothing for the way, no walking stick and no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt ..." (Lk 9,3 ) This shows that if we go out with nothing, we feel the poor, to whom we are sent, closer. We'll be inseparable from them.

In Pakistan, we have to play a meaningful role as a poor church for the poor. This means to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, as Jesus taught (cf. Mt 5:13 f). This is what we are called. We need to give light and we must never stop as Christians to be salt. This is our life, and that is the life of the poor Church for the poor in Pakistan. God bless Pakistan!

JAMES CHANNON OP 
monk and theologian, director of the Dominican Peace Center in Lahore / Pakistan

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