We were all thrilled when the announcement was made on Christmas day that the Reverend Rana Youab Khan had been offered the position of Ministry Area Leader and Rector of the Crickhowell Parishes and that he had accepted it. Since then I have conducted a sort of remote interview by phone and email in order to find out more about his personal background and the journey that brought him here to the Usk Valley.
Rana, as he is usually called was born and raised in Vehari, a small town in Southern Punjab, Pakistan. Although Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country, Rana comes from a Christian family – his great-grandfather became a Christian through the work of CMS missionaries. It’s no surprise then that in the UK he is chairman of the CMS Asia Forum. Rana’s parents were both active and committed Christians. Rana’s father very much wanted him to go to a church school because they are famous in Pakistan for the quality and affordable education they provide to the extent that many wealthy and educated Muslims send their children to these schools. Because there was no church school in Vehari, Rana’s father sent him to a good church school in a town a few hundred miles away where he lived with distant relatives. Living away from home and family did not appeal to Rana so he started to lose interest in his studies. His father was angry because he could see the ambitious plans that he had made for his son crumbling away and brought him home. The local Imam (Muslim religious leader) seeing Rana around the town enquired about the situation and he and Rana’s father hatched the plan of sending him to the madrassa (a school attached to the mosque). This was intended as a corrective measure, a punishment even, the plan being that after a few weeks he would come to realize what a good school he had left. On the contrary he was treated as the only Christian in the school with such courtesy and consideration that he completed the five years of his primary education there. His secondary and degree education were completed in Vehari where most of his fellow-students were from Muslim backgrounds.
After graduation, he moved to Lahore to enhance his career opportunities and it was there that someone who was a convert from a Muslim background suggested that Rana, who had from childhood a great interest in church activities, Christian apologetics and comparative religion, Church growth and youth fellowship, should become a priest. During a time of discernment from 1995-1996 he very quickly developed the conviction that God was calling him to serve the church as a priest. He was ordained in September 1999. While he was a curate at St Andrew’s, Lahore, the age-old story of “dashing young curate meets beautiful Sunday-school teacher” was once again played out so that he now has a wife, Moseena Rana, and three fine sons Ayub (15), Youbab (13) and Moosa (10).
As a priest in Pakistan he served in rural and urban settings; he was Interfaith Advisor to the Bishop of Lahore, a prison chaplain, and he established and taught a One Year Diploma in the Hebrew Language at the University of Punjab, the oldest and most prestigious government university in Pakistan.
Rana was invited to the UK by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to work at Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office in London assisting the Archbishop and the Anglican Communion on their dialogues with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Cairo. Rana facilitated translations of Archbishop Rowan’s lectures to Muslim audiences into the Urdu and Bangla languages which strengthened provincial links between the Church of Bangladesh and the Church in Wales as well as the Diocese of Lahore in Pakistan and the Diocese of Manchester in the Church of England (see note ). He was also invited to Wales to give the Bishop Vaughan Memorial lecture in 2012. Most recently Rana has covered an inter-regnum at John Keble Church, Mill Hill, London.
I asked him some personal questions. His favourite verse is John 13:34 & 35 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’; his favourite hymn or song is ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’; and his favourite food is pilau rice, chicken and fish.
I expect that by now you are wondering, as I did, “Why does he want to come here?” Rana and his family have visited Wales – in 2011, he went to Pakistan to celebrate Christmas with his mother while Moseena and boys came to Swansea. At that time, they had no idea one day they would be coming to Wales to live and work. Rana’s first incumbency was in a rural area, so after working for some time in a central city environment he felt the need to get back to his roots in parish ministry in a settled rural community. He is attracted by the good team of passionate lay and ordained people here and feels that in leading the Ministry Area he will be able to bring to bear the experience he has had. Although Rana’s was the only application for our vacancy, ours was not the only offer he received – there was an alternative which was much closer to where they had been living but Rana felt a clear sense of calling to come to minister here.
On his Facebook page Rana says, “Moseena and I are looking forward to get involved in the next phase of our ministry in an area of outstanding natural beauty, full of challenges and opportunity for mission following the footsteps of St Catwg.”