By Sheraz Khan, South Asia Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
MUSSEL, THE NETHERLANDS (ANS – June 30 2017) — Gul Irfan Khan, a Pakistani Christian missionary who now lives in the Netherlands has said he would like to work with the radicalised Muslims in the western nations in a bid to de-radicalize them.
“God has given me a vision to work with the radicalised individuals in the western countries. I would like to share Jesus’ love with those who have been radicalised as well as those who are vulnerable to becoming radicalised.
“I would like to remind the second and third generation immigrant Muslims that if it were not down to the compassion of the western nations they wouldn’t have been living in the west in the first place.
“I would share Jesus’s message of love and peace to them and appeal to them to give up wreaking death and destruction and instead start promoting peace”, Gul Iran Khan told ANS in an interview on Monday, June 26, 2017.
Khan is well known in Pakistan because of his Christian missionary work aimed at promoting understanding between Christians and Muslims through Christian- Muslim dialogues.
Khan was born in Youngsonabad, a Christian village which was set up in the Punjab province of Pakistan almost 100 years ago by the Rev. J. W. Youngson, a Christian missionary from Scotland.
Khan credited Christian missionaries for their work in Pakistan in the areas of education, health and community building.
Alluding to the appallingly poor socio-economic situation of the Pakistani Christians Khan stated he wouldn’t have been able to get education if the missionaries had not set up schools in Pakistan.
“I grew up in a Christian family. I had finished reading Bible from a very young age. My parents instilled Christian values in me”, said Khan.
Khan stated that he was a member of the Church of Pakistan, however, he would go to pray in churches of all denominations. He said he was in college when he joined the Village Youth Council and soon became its president. The council would help resolve disputes between people of the village, he said, stating that sometimes the members of the council would also accompany with people to the courts of law to give them moral support.
He stated that these experiences helped him learn what leadership entailed, adding that he drew on his strengths and learnt about the areas he needed to work on. “I am still a work in progress”, said Khan.
Asked what drew him to the missionary work, Khan told ANS that whilst he was pursuing his college education he learnt about a Haggai Leadership Seminar in Lahore, an eastern city of Pakistan.
He went on to say that upon his arrival at the seminar he learnt that from amongst the participants he was the youngest.
Khan told ANS that despite being the youngest participant at the seminar he did not hesitate asking questions and engaging in the discussion. “One of the foreign missionary organisers of the seminar predicted that I would one day become a missionary”, Khan told ANS.
He added: “The missionary’s prediction came true after a few years when the Operation Mobilisation (OM) invited me to work with them as missionary”.
In 1997, Khan said he was appointed as the OM team leader in the Pakistani city of Gujrat in the province Punjab of Pakistan. Khan stated that he began holding Christian-Muslim dialogues in Gujrat in a bid to foster inter-faith harmony in the Pakistani society.
“The inter-religious relations in Pakistan were not nearly as fractured then as they now are”, he commented.
Khan stated that he held the Christian-Muslim dialogues in many cities of Pakistan.
He stated that the Christian and Muslim participants in the dialogues would discuss the common or shared values espoused by people of the two religions.
Khan stated that as part of his missionary work he set up a school for gypsy children in Gujrat.
Khan told ANS that he was transferred to Lahore after his missionary work in Gujrat.
Asked if he had to face persecution because of his missionary work Khan said that he had been receiving threatening phone calls since he was transferred to Lahore.
“In 2005, the police arrested me. They released me after an intervention by the Pakistan Labour Party”, he disclosed.
Describing another persecutory incident, he said some pro-Taliban elements detained him when he was leading an OM evangelism team in Chaman on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
He said his captors released them after a few days.
Khan stated that he had had many opportunities to do evangelism leadership training courses in Pakistan and abroad. In 2001, he said, he went to the Netherlands to attend a fortnightly conference.
He added: “In 2006 I did a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the Netherlands.
“I went to Venezuela to do a 3-month missionary outreach as part of the DTS”, Khan told ANS.
Khan said he came back to Pakistan following the DTS training in the Netherlands and began working as a YWAMER in Pakistan. Khan stated that he had been to the Philippines and Singapore to do missionary work in 2007 and 2010 respectively.
In 2011, he stated that alongside a Bangladeshi YWAM missionary he set up the first DTS in Pakistan in St. Dennis School, Murree.
In 2014 Khan said he came to the Netherlands and has since been doing missionary work in the Netherlands.
Asked what brought him to the Netherlands again Khan stated that he fled to the Netherlands from Pakistan after he was accused of having committed blasphemy.
Citing reason for the framing of the concocted blasphemy accusations against him Khan said he was accused of having committed blasphemy because he had helped a Muslim man, who had been accused of having committed blasphemy, with his asylum claim in the Netherlands while he was doing a DTS in the Netherlands in 2006.
Asked to describe the experience of settling in a new country Khan stated that for a start the authorities in the Netherlands refused his asylum application, adding that they found it difficult to accept that he continued to carry on doing evangelism in Pakistan despite having received threats in the past.
Khan said that he was subsequently put in a camp alongside other asylum seekers. Describing his passion for holding inter-faith events he said that that on December 25, 2014 he cut a Christmas cake in the asylum camp and shared it with asylum seekers of all faiths and nationalities.
Khan stated that following acceptance of his asylum and human rights claim by the Dutch authorities he chose to settle in Mussel. Khan stated that he is a member of Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk “De Ark” (Christian Reformed Church “the Ark”).
Asked what is it that he appreciates the most in the Netherlands Khan stated that he deeply values the freedom of speech and the freedom to do evangelism in the Netherlands.
ANS then asked what were his long-term goals. Khan stated that he would like to study the world’s religions. “I would also like to do community development projects for Pakistani Christians”, said Khan.
“They are my people. I can never forget them. Their cause is my cause and the one which is very close to my heart.”
Editor’s note: Gul Irfan Khan can contacted by e-mail: email@example.com
Photo captions: 1) Gul Irfan Khan seen with his wife and children. 2) Gul Irfan Khan, not your usual missionary. 3) Gul Irfan Khan with friends. 4) Gul Irfan Khan with fellow missionaries from all over the world. 5) Sheraz Khan.
About the writer: Sheraz Khan is a Pakistani-British journalist. He lives in Scotland. He can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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