ROME, SEPT. 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Dominican general chapter under way in Rome has brought together representatives of work in 102 countries. Perhaps one of the Dominicans with most suffering to recount is the vice provincial of Pakistan.
Dominican Father James Channan is not new to general chapters — this is his fourth. But the perspective he brings to the religious’ meetings is in constant flux.
As the vice provincial of the Pakistan vice provence, established in 1982, Father Channan’s work is under the ongoing threat of terrorism. But the Dominicans in Pakistan face the challenges of nature as well: the floods now devastating the nation from the monsoon season extend over a region larger than the territory of the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, the interview Father Channan gave to the Dominican Information Service reflects the priest’s hope in his mission.
“I feel that the future is very promising for our vice province,” he said. “We have 36 professed friars, four 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.”
The Pakistani vice province owes its existence to Dominicans from Italy (who arrived in 1931) and from the United States (who arrived in 1956). “I pay rich tribute to these missionaries who gave so many years of their life to Pakistan,” Father Channan said.
In a country that is 96% Muslim and only 2% Christian, interreligious dialogue is a key factor for the Dominican missionaries there. In that regard, the vice provincial said that “we are very much encouraged by Vatican and papal documents” as well as Dominican statements. “The documents and programs organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious 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 a more peaceful and humane place, with respect for all.”
Never-ending Sept. 11 But the difficulties are not to be underestimated: “At present, Pakistan is going through a lot of turmoil,” Father Channan said. “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 [incidents] 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.”
Father Channan characterized the Church in Pakistan as a “suffering Church,” noting attacks against Christians that have recently grown in number. He spoke of churches, schools and hospitals being attacked, with some 300 facilities being burned “by the fanatics.”
Noting that Islam, Christianity and other religions “teach respect for life, peace and acceptance of others and respect for all,” the Dominican emphasized the particular Christian mission in Pakistan. “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.'”
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On the Net:
Complete interview: curia.op.org/roma2010/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29:interview-james-channan-prior-vice-provincial-ibn-e-mariam-vice-province-of-pakistan&catid=1:chronicle&Itemid=3〈=en