The Diocese of Islamabad is behind the initiative. Very few Christians work in the federal administration, despite a 5 per cent government quota for minorities. The first class consisted of 26 students, 22 women and four men.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi organised the first preparatory course to help Pakistani Catholics join the federal civil service. The course began in July of last year and ended on 10 January. Some 26 students enrolled in the course, 22 women and four men.
“My ministry is focused on youth,” said Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, speaking to AsiaNews. “I want young Catholics to play a bigger role for their families and Church. We must head to professional education. Very few Christians serve in government departments.”
The course was held at St Mary's Cambridge School, Rawalpindi, near the capital. The diocese provided textbooks, teaching materials and everything necessary to learn.
As a rule, such the Central Superior Services (CSS) preparatory course for recruitment in federal government is offered by private schools at a cost of around 70,000 rupees (US$ 450). The Church charged 1,500 rupees (US$ 10).
The CSS is Pakistan’s permanent bureaucratic elite, the civil service, and is responsible for running civilian bureaucratic operations and the secretariats and directorates of the Cabinet of Pakistan.
Each year, the Federal Public Service Commission holds CSS exams and around 12,000 candidates take the test but only a handful pass the written part.
“The government of Pakistan reserved a minimum of five percent job quota for minorities in 2009 but the latter generally goes unfulfilled,” Mgr Arshad told AsiaNews. “After more than 70 years, Pakistani Christians remain marginalised, oppressed and weak.”
For project coordinator Father Sarfaraz Simon, shortage of teachers is a major challenge. “We plan to expand such classes around the diocese but subject specialists and civil servants are not available in small cities,” he said. “Still an example has been set. Other dioceses can take this inspiration in the ongoing Year of Youth 2020,” he added.
When the Year was inaugurated in November 2029 at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, the bishops appealed to priests, lay associations and Church groups to train young Catholics, help them overcome obstacles and empower them by giving them of responsibilities.
“The Church runs many schools and technical centres but most of the beneficiaries are Muslims,” Father Simon said. “Our youth remain disorientated and devoid of career counselling.”
“The percentage of educated Christian girls is much higher than the boys,” the clergyman explained. “There is a constant surveillance on females’ movements and smartphones in our male-dominated society. They remain at home studying and doing household chores. The young men ignore study and enjoy their freedom.”