Blog from the Living Letters visit to Pakistan

The Living Letters blogs are written to share about visits to specific countries or regions around the world, organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Decade to Overcome Violence initiative along with assistance from local coordinators, churches and other organizations. The Living Letters blogs are personal narratives from members of the "Living Letters" team and do not necessarily represent the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

Additional information on the Living Letters visit to Pakistan

Watchman in Uniform

Shanta Premawardhana (WCC), Dick Kleinhesselink (program officer of PCN Mission Department, not participating in the Living Letters delegation) and I arrived on the same flight to Lahore. When Dicks suitcase did not appear and he had to report that to the people in charge, Shanta and I went outside the terminal to meet the driver waiting for us.

When I had to go back to Dick I was faced with 6 people in uniform, guarding the entrance of the arrival hall. I was not supposed to enter again. Just arrived in Pakistan, thinking of the safety situation I assumed that it would be hard to pass these men in uniform.

Two of them standing outside the terminal indeed told me that I could by no means enter again. When I started to explain my problem, they called upon a colleague who looked very strict and asked me what seemed to be the problem.

After a while he said: so you want to help your friend and ask for my permission to do that? I nodded and then the man in uniform said: ‘ Of course you can go in, I am here to help people'.

When I was about to leave the arrival hall again to inform Shanta, I thanked the officer. He then asked me what I did for a living. When I told him that I was a lecturer a big smile came to his face. We were colleagues then! He graduated from the faculty of literature, had taught English in secondary school. And he now needed my help. He wrote a novel about people in the Northwest Provinces of Pakistan - a very troublesome and dangerous area at the border with Afghanistan - telling about the conflict, the religious and cultural aspects of it and he was looking for a publisher to publish his novel. Whether I had contacts who could help to publish the book. He quoted form his book|: ‘Violence has made so many certainties become uncertain; this sword above peoples head paralyses normal life…'. I told him I had no connections to publishing house. He spoke about his love for Shakespeare, values in life, how religion could support cultural values but also obstruct them… And then he had to go. I also went…

Only afterwards it came to my mind what had happened in terms of communication. Feeling insecure because of his uniform - preoccupied as I was with the military and the safety situation in Pakistan - the last thing I expected was a conversation about what exactly was the goal of our visit: sharing with the people of Pakistan about the conflicts they are facing and about the role of religion, culture, economy and power in all this. And right at the doorstep I met a man in uniform speaking to me as author who reflects on these issues, showing his concerns. But he was not in the schedule…

Maybe I had to meet him to be aware that our mission is to listen to the people, including or foremost to the stories of the people who experience the challenges of Pakistan in every day life.

And why was this teacher who spends his free time on writing a novel working as a guard anyway? I was happy we had a week for this visit in order to ask more questions to more people. And that we were together as a delegation from different countries in Europe, Asia and America, including the US and Pakistan itself. We would need the different perspectives to understand what is happening in Pakistan as well as to understand the different perspectives people in Pakistan have on us, the rest of the world.

Part of the delegation represents the ‘West', the so-called Christian world. As a delegation we are the allies of a minority in Pakistan without really understanding what it is to be in a minority position and even sensitive for too much of a minority awareness and behaviour… The Pakistan member of the delegation, teaching in the USA would be of much help to explain and to reflect on these complexities.


Posted By: Aart on Nov 28, 2008 01:01PM

To get more information about Pakistan, please visit


Posted By: sikander on Feb 21, 2009 10:51PM