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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Friar Victor John OFM

Updated: May 8


Gordon: When you received your vocation, with whom did you discuss it, and what was their advice?

 

Friar Victor: My father being a Catechist and knowing the scriptures, before even I was born both my parents decided that their first baby would be consecrated for God. As I grew older and came to know the wishes of my parents, my interest started growing at that time I also came in contact with the seminarians who used to come to our school for a vocation drive. I talked to them and they encouraged me. They gave me some vocational materials to go through and then decide. When I was fifteen years old there was a national vocation promotion program for one week outside my home town organized by the Franciscans. My parish priest being a Friar minor asked me if I would be interested in attending. I attended that and I decided that I would join the Franciscan.                                                                

       

Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?


Friar Victor: The initial formation house of the friars is in the Northern part of Pakistan in Lahore. After spending three years there I came to Karachi in the South where I started the novitiate, made my simple vows one year later, and then attended the Christ the King Seminary, a National Seminary for all religious and diocesan seminarians at that time. My favorite subject was Catechisms and Islamic Studies.

 

Gordon: Why did you decide to be a Franciscan?

 

Friar Victor: The parish I was born in was run by the Franciscans the whole diocese was started and run by the Franciscans and from my early childhood I had seen the lifestyle of the friars, their simplicity, their availability to the people, their joyfulness, and their missionary zeal made me attracted to the Franciscan way of life. Now when I look back I am happy and satisfied that I have chosen this life. I am now 43 years as a Friar and 38 years as an ordained priest.

 

Gordon: What aspects of Saint Francis's life inspire you the most?

 

Friar Victor As I have been a Franciscan for many years now, I must say Francis being a man of God has many beautiful and inspiring aspects of his life, his simplicity, his love for the poor and the marginalized, his respect and dedication for the Eucharist, but his love for nature inspires me the most. St. Francis sees everything created by God as his brothers and sisters there for we must respect every God’s creation and give praise to God. In his last days before dying, St. Francis wrote “The Canticle of Brother Sun”, praising God for the beautiful creation of God.

 

Gordon: Approximately what percentage of Pakistan is Catholic?

 

Friar Victor  The current population of Pakistan is 235.8 million approximately (Survey of 2022), out of which the majority are Muslims about 97% of the total population. The Christians and Hindus are the two largest religious minorities in Pakistan. The total numbers of Christians in Pakistan were estimated about 2.6 million or 1.6% of the population; half are Roman Catholics and half of other Protestant denominations. The Christians of Pakistan are patriotic towards their country and they are serving in every field, particularly in health, education, and defense. Their services are appreciated and recognized, especially in the areas of Health and Education.

 

Gordon: What are some of the most serious problems in Pakistan?

 

Friar Victor Almost every Christian male and female in their daily life experiences faces different types of discriminatory attitudes by the majority religion, this practice continues in education and whatever institute Christian inmates are working with and among the majority of Muslims.

 

The Christians are also called Churra (filthy or low-grade human beings, because most of the people are sanitary workers) while on the other side, the majority of Muslims wish to send their children to educational institutions run by the Christians.   The underage Christian girls are not only victims of rape but also forced conversions and are forced to marry Muslim men.

 

The Christians are victims of discrimination and violence by Muslim extremists in the country and a series of sharp increases of violence continues based on religious grounds.


The Christian community is also a victim of religiously motivated violence by religious extremists. Churches (buildings) in various parts of the country were attacked, set on fire, looted and worshippers were seriously injured and killed.

 

In Pakistan, Christian persecution is a harsh reality and the Christians are being targeted only because they are Christians. The Christians have suffered injustice, being victims of mob violence, forced removals from their jobs and also facing social, political, and economic discrimination. They are being killed, targeted, having their homes and churches confiscated or destroyed, and being forced to flee for their lives.

 

The Christians painfully observed the sufferings after alleged incidents of blasphemy or any other alleged allegations related to religion always resulting in inhuman mob violence, targeted killings, looting, burning the houses, places of worship (churches), and holy books into fires, etc.

 

The biggest threat confronting Pakistan is the growing attacks of militants. The increasing number of killings of innocent citizens by terrorist-banned outfits across the country throughout the year is alarming.  This was the greatest threat to the fundamental rights of the citizens as well as to the human rights defenders. Civil society organizations (which include enlightened Muslims)  time to time draw attention to the prejudices, religious intolerance, and discriminatory practices against Christians such as misuse of blasphemy laws against Christians, injustices, and sexual harassment at the workplace against Christian women & girls (enforced conversion & enforced marriages) and religiously motivated violence & hatred, discriminations in curriculum and at the state level, all forms of degrading treatments and on the unpleasant incidents of persecution, etc.

 

The discrimination is faced by our young people even in applying for government jobs too. There are forced conversions of Christian and Hindu girls to Islam regularly through marriages and forced conversions due to poverty or for security reasons.  "If you become a Muslim, you will get a good job, you will be accepted and move up on the social ladder, etc" Also you will be safe.  No one will kill you or blame you falsely for blasphemy if you become a Muslim.

 

Gordon: Please tell us something about your pariah.

 

Friar Victor: In December 2023, I was asked by the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) to go to the missions in Papua New Guinea. I am assigned to be a Secretary of Formation and Studies and the Master of the Post-Novitiate Program, in the Foundation of St. Francis of Assisi in Papua New Guinea. I have four simple professed students in the formation preparing for their solemn vows. It is a challenging mission, we need a lot of prayers and moral support for the foundation in general and the Franciscan Friars in particular. May God bless us all.



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