September 21, 2012, 11:17 AM
[The following e-mail exchange between URI Executive Director Rev. Charles P. Gibbs and the Rev. James Channan (above), URI’s Subregional Coordinator for Pakistan, took place this morning, during a wave of violent protests throughout Pakistan. URI has received the permission of both men to repost the exchange].
Greetings of love and peace.
As I write these brief greetings, it is already afternoon on the International Day of Peace in Australia. Day is dawning in Africa.
It is an hour before midnight on Thursday here in California. All is still, but for an occasional call from the family of red-tailed hawks nesting in the eucalyptus tree on the hillside outside my bedroom window.
I wish I could invite the entire world into the peace I feel at this moment; and I wish that peace could wash over this wounded world like a healing balm.
Then I realize that through the observances of the IDP, a healing balm is washing over the world.
Maybe it's just a tiny beginning and not enough to quench the flames of violence raging in our time, but great floods begin with a few drops of rain. May the deluge of peace begin.
I wish you all a blessed IDP.
I wish you were in Pakistan at this time and moment. You would have been extremely frightened. There are protest rallies all around the country to protest against the anti-Islam film made in the US. The angry mobs are violent in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar etc., and the protesters have started destroying private and government properties. Several shops are burnt, gasoline (petrol pumps) burnt, cinemas put on fire and at least two policemen have been killed in Karachi.
It is so horrifying to watch news channels. There is violence all around the country. We fail to understand why our people are destroying our own shops, cinemas, shopping malls, cars and so on. It seems that in many cities, police and rangers are helpless to control the angry protesters. Even the rescue teams, ambulances, fire fighting vehicles and fire fighters are not able to reach these burning sites.
In spite of repeated appeals of the government to have peaceful demonstrations - it seems no one is listening.
I request you and all those who are reading this email to please pray for us and our country. Thanks!
Father James Channan, OP
Greetings of love and peace on this International Day of Peace.
I’ve just spoken with Fr. James Channan, wanting to hear from him personally after reading his moving and disturbing email.
Fr. James painted a picture of Pakistan as a country of people of all faiths deeply offended by an insult to the Prophet Mohammed; a country burning with the flames of anger, hurt and hatred; of people often creating destruction in the communities where they do business, work and live.
But there’s much more. He spoke of a program he had listened to where the speakers were exploring the question of why Pakistan was so violent when other Muslim countries aren’t.
He spoke of a peaceful demonstration on Thursday in Lahore. Among the 50,000 who participated were Christians, including Fr. James, Hindus and Sikhs standing in solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. Certainly there were men at this demonstration, but also women and children; young and old. James remembers seeing a small child, 1-1/2 years old, wearing a headband that said, “I love Mohammed.”
I wish the non-Muslim could somehow awaken to the depth of love that peace-loving Muslims have for their prophet. How for them, Mohammed is a daily presence guiding them to be good, righteous, generous people who love their families and seek to be a positive presence in their communities.
Also on Thursday there was a demonstration in Islamabad that turned violent. That night, Fr. James said, all the news coverage was of the violent demonstration. There was no coverage at all of the peaceful demonstration.
Fr. James also told me that, in the current climate, they felt they had to reschedule their annual IDP celebration, which was to include Pakistan’s Minister for National Harmony, as well as prominent religious leaders. Among the honored guests were to be URI’s two new Global Council Trustees from Pakistan, Mr. Zubair Ahmed Farooq and Mr. Nasir Mehood Saleemi. They hope to have their celebration on Sunday. Fr. James asked that the URI community continue to hold URI Pakistan and all of Pakistan in our prayers, and to join them in spirit and prayer on Sunday.
At one point, Fr. James asked me if America can do anything about stopping the sort of hate speech, in this case in the form of a video, that was at least the spark that ignited this fire storm.
My answer, which I will write about in more length in another posting, had these main points:
This message has grown much longer than I intended, but I want to offer two things before I close.
As we finished our conversation, Fr. James said, “There are big challenges. But I will never give up working for interfaith harmony. Please pray for us.”
And, during the turbulent civil rights years in the U.S., a man named Sam Cooke sang a transforming song that included these words:
Oh there been time’s when I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes, it will
On this International Day of Peace, my prayer is – May it be.