Priest who promotes Christian-Muslim dialog is honored by Pakistan

(Reuters/Fayaz Aziz)Pakistani Christians hearing mass.

The Pakistan government has honored a Roman Catholic priest for his "exemplary services" to promote interfaith harmony and peace in his own country and worldwide.

Father James Channan, a priest in the Dominican order who has spent 50 years following the spirituality of St. Dominic, received an award at the Interfaith Conference 2019 in Lahore on May 17, UCANews reported.

More than 300 people, including Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs attended the ceremony.

Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Pakistan's federal minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony in the overwhelmingly Muslim country, presented the award.

Catholics make up a tiny minority of Pakistan's estimated population of 208 million people. Muslims, most of whom are Sunnis, make up more than 96 percent of the population, while Christians and Hindus make up less than 3.6 percent of the people.

"Many people helped me to reach this place. I praise God, the Church, my community of Ibn-e-Mariam Vice Province of Pakistan, and all my friends," said Channan.

"I especially thank my Muslim friends who always supported me and my work and keep on appreciating me to continue my mission to promote peace and harmony among the people of Pakistan.

"I am actively serving in this mission to build bridges between Christians and the people of other religions, especially with our Muslim brethren, but still I see there is an urgent need for interfaith dialogue."

Channan said his work to promote peace and interfaith harmony brings him peace and mental satisfaction.

"I keep on thinking about ways to bring people of various faiths together, to help them to nurture and strengthen peace among them," he said.

"Everybody is my neighbor and being a follower of Jesus Christ I have to love everybody — it keeps me motivated and zealous." Said Channan.

"We always have to share this message that we are one human family, following different religions and faiths but living our faiths we have to promote love, unity and peace."

Channan is the director of Lahore's Peace Center, which was inaugurated by the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, then president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

"I work to provide facility to the people of various professions and age groups to come together for dialogue, which helps to remove discrimination, fundamentalism and extremism from our society," he said.

The Pakistani priest also serves as a regional coordinator of United Religions Initiative (URI) in Asia which serves in 109 countries including Pakistan.

"We have 63 active groups of religious leaders, lawyers, journalists, youth, women and children. Our Peace Center is always available for programs or events to promote peace, interfaith harmony, interreligious harmony and Christian-Muslim dialogue," he said.

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