(AsiaNews) - Christians in Pakistan "are discriminated, not persecuted," Fr Robert
McCulloch told AsiaNews. For this
reason, they need the "get united" and keep alive the "hope that is within us"
for a better future of the country. The future of the Catholic Church is one of
"great confidence" because "the new generations want to promote a Catholic view
of the dignity of life."
in the Australian State of Victoria in 1946, Fr McCulloch has been a missionary
in Pakistan with the Missionary Society of St. Columban since 1978. Last year,
he moved to Rome on a new assignment but has gone back several times to the
country where he lived for decades to see the progress of his many initiatives (schools,
hospitals and centres).
President Asif Ali Zardari recently awarded him the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam for
his work on behalf of the nation's development (pictured Fr McCulloch, President Zardari and Paul Bhatti).
his many years of mission, the Australian priest taught Church history, literature
and Latin, served as the dean of the National Catholic Institute of Theology
and was spiritual director of priests and new seminarians in Karachi.
Hyderabad, he administered the 110-bed St Elizabeth Hospital, which specialises
in maternal and childcare. It is the only facility "for 20,000 people in rural
Sindh." Next September, it will open a new palliative care unit for the
terminally ill. "Our best trained doctors and nurses will also visit the
patients at home and take care of them. This fits the Catholic teaching on the dignity
reports have often focused on attacks against minorities, especially Christians,
by fringe and fanatical elements with people killed and wounded and property
damaged or destroyed. However, for Fr Robert, the term persecution is too
strong because in many places, including Karachi and Islamabad, "people are
free to worship."
his view, it "is a matter of discrimination, not persecution". Incidents like
Gojra, Shanti Nagar, and Multan were politically motivated. The "concepts of
majority and minority should be eliminated."
his mission in Pakistan, he focused on harmony and interreligious dialogue, especially
I went I tried to favour inter-confessional harmony. At St Elizabeth Hospital,
one of the deputy medical superintendents is a Muslim. "We have Catholic,
Muslim and Hindu doctors and nurses."
the floods in 2010 and 2011, our doctors and nurses worked together with
Muslims and Hindus treating patients without distinctions.
1978, I have been involved in education and health care," he explained, "opening
small schools where I also taught."
the start in Sheikhpura, Hyderabad and Badin, in the interior of Sindh province,
he developed more ambitious projects that have led to five schools in remote
areas each with 400 pupils.
years ago, I started a Catholic Centre of Academic Excellence for boys to break
the boundaries of discrimination. This will help develop the future leaders of
the Catholic Church."
also had the Theology Centre affiliate with the Melbourne College of Divinity students
can thus earn a bachelors degree from Melbourne through the Catholic Church.
has helped improve the training of Pakistani clergymen in the past ten years
ago. "Among Pakistani Christians, the level of pride and confidence in their
own faith has increased," he said.