POSA VISITED PAKISTAN. Writes; Lajore is so close, yet so far..!

In an air conditioned forty seater bus, with two security guards, two drivers and one manager, I was the only passenger to travel from Delhi to Lahore on 23rd April. That was not all. There was an escort vehicle with siren to clear the way for ‘DOSTI’ bus between the two neighbouring countries to reach its destination. It dawned on me then: we need to spend such a lot of resources to safeguard enmity! Thankfully the return journey in a Pakistani bus had around 25 passengers; but the rest of the arrangements remained the same. Indeed a journey down the memory lane of struggles together for independence and then, battle it out to live as ‘enemies’ ever after! At the designated bus ‘adda’ Renato and Mr. Nadeem, a lawyer friend of Pakistani Jesuit community, received me and drove me to Loyola Hall in Lahore. The Jesuit contingent, besides Renato, consisted of Frs. Maria Sebastian, Jeyaraj Rashiah, former provincial’s of Sri Lanka and Fr. Juan Carlos, (Islam specialist), Fr. John Imran – the only Pakistani Jesuit, three scholastics Chamika Nipun (whom we provincials met in Vavuniya in Sri Lanka) now a regent in Pakistan and Asim and Amir – two Pakistani scholastics – and six candidates. Renato (superior) had worked out a schedule that enabled me to meet all Jesuits individually and as a group, besides visits to our three schools. A well equipped Islam specialized library, the center for non-violent communication (NVC), multi-purpose hall and other facilities for conducting sessions – all located in the same campus – provided space for a rich combination of ministries, of this ‘tiny’ but dynamic group of Jesuits in Pakistan in the historic city of Lahore. The three schools, named St. Mary’s, cater to about 2000 children, boys and girls, hailing from lower middle class and in locations bustling with life and people. Imran and Renato look after these schools, as animators rather than administrators. Three lay people administer the schools as principals, while the Jesuits animate the schools with general guidelines based on Jesuit educational principals. The same is true with the research and NVC centers. Lahore model could challenge us! Fr. Kalathil had made in-roads into these and other schools, inviting children to cultivate friendship beyond borders. Are these children showing us a way forward? I had occasion to meet with Jesuit associates at a session organized by the Peace group led by advocate Anthony Nadeem on the theme of Eucharist and Peace building. The table-fellowship, of which Eucharist was a continuation, builds peace, while breaking down boundaries. While Jeyaraj continues his writing of Pakistan Jesuit History, he also caters to the spiritual animation of the clergy and the religious. Maria Sebastian guides the NVC initiative, and Sch. Chamika teaches Yoga in the schools besides his expert support through computer science.  In the common meeting with the Jesuits, we dwelt on promoting vocations and strengthening formation for which a formula of support to Sri Lanka from India and from the former to Pakistan was proposed. We also reflected on collaboration with Indonesia in Islam ministry and formation. JWL and JRS could be initiated in Pakistan if there are personnel. There are many possibilities and opportunities to support Pakistan mission if only we tickle our imagination and creativity! All the struggle and waiting for the journey to Lahore was worth it! For zealous Jesuits, borders are spaces to traverse to discover the emerging possibilities! The Lord of surprises is around the corner, we can be sure!

Fr. George Pattery SJ