06/23/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pope Francis' encyclical to combat Pakistan’s water shortage

by Kamran Chaudhry
In Sindh province the emergency is very real: last year 316 children died because of drought. Fr. Renato Zecchin, superior of the Jesuits in the country, hopes that “Laudato sì" will push the government "to draw on the resources of the monsoon and use the natural gifts we have." In Lahore a pastor will plant 10 thousand trees with his students.

Hyderabad (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis’  “Laudato sì” "raises the serious question of water scarcity in Pakistan, and in particular in our diocese", says Msgr. Samson Shukardin, bishop of Hyderabad, commenting on the encyclical during Sunday Mass on 21 June in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.

The newly appointed bishop noted that the situation will worsen in future in the southern Sindh province. “Already 316 children have died in drought hit Tharparkar district last year. Being a Franciscan, I will soon form a separate commission on ecology (which is a part of my spirituality) and work it along the lines of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation”, he told Asia News.

Franciscans, capuchins, Society of St. Columban and Jesuits are among the few congregations that deal with environment issues in Pakistan. Caritas Pakistan, which released the pontiff encyclical on June 18 in Pakistan, also established a Climate Change desk this March with focal persons in all the seven dioceses.

Father Renato Zeechin, the Jesuit superior in Pakistan also quoted from the pope's encyclical urging “solutions to man-made problems” in June 21 mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lahore. “The pontiff presented the Church’s point of view pretty well. It is interesting even for the Islamic scholars. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan should use this great opportunity to engage Muslims in the common cause of saving the planet”, said Father Renato who has been running Magis Pakistan, a group of 90 youngsters for six years.

“Ecology and Justice is a major theme of our monthly talks. For Pakistan, one of the questions is water; it is a common sight to see queues of people holding empty cans at the filter points. Very few people use tap water for drinking. The encyclical is a call for government authorities to tap its monsoon resources and use the natural gifts we have.”

The message also inspired Father Qaiser Feroz to initiate a massive plantation drive in Lahore. “We shall plant 10,000 saplings when the schools reopen in August after summer vacations. Students from four schools and each of the 5000 families in my parish will plant trees”, said parish priest of St. Joseph Church who was transferred from port city of Karachi about six months ago.

“People in (Karachi) biggest city of the country have to pay water storage tanks to fulfill their needs. The stored water usually lasts for a week though. My heart pains to see the amount of water wasted in slums of Punjab, the most populous province. It is time the authorities think about just distribution of water in the country”.

 

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