25 October 2016
AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook
Geographic areas

  • > Africa
  • > Central Asia
  • > Europe
  • > Middle East
  • > Nord America
  • > North Asia
  • > South Asia
  •    - Afghanistan
  •    - Bangladesh
  •    - Bhutan
  •    - India
  •    - Nepal
  •    - Pakistan
  •    - Sri Lanka
  • > South East Asia
  • > South West Asia
  • > Sud America
  • > East Asia

  • mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato

    » 06/22/2012, 00.00


    Sinhalese Carmelites educate girls in Pakistan

    Jibran Khan

    For over 30 years, a group of nuns has been working in the country, in education and health. Studies alternate with moments of prayer, Mass and catechism. Sister Mary: the first challenge, which has been overcome, was to "convince families to send girls to school." Regret for the girls' school in the "wonderful" Swat Valley, destroyed by the Taliban.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) - They have dedicated their missionary lives to the development of education in Pakistan, with particular attention to women's education that today - in many cases - is even better than that of males. Over the years, they have started schools and high schools in various parts of the country; even in the Swat Valley, which in many parts is a Taliban stronghold, they had managed to establish a center for studies, which ended up in the crosshairs of extremists who - after some time - devastated it, destroying all the material contained within. However, in spite of difficulties and threats they have wished to continue their work, which continues still today. This is the story of five Sri Lankan nuns who have been in Pakistan for years helping to develop the educational sector; an important element in the life of the country, to whom AsiaNews in the past dedicated a detailed report (see Education can stop the Taliban in Pakistan).

    Sister Mary Dorothea, from the congregation of Carmel, originally from Sri Lanka, set foot for the first time in Pakistan on April 21, 1981. She was the pioneer, the first of a group of five nuns - over time she was joined by Sister Theolinde, Sister Kanthi, Sister Luke and Sister Helen Theresa - called to the country by the then Archbishop of Lahore Msgr. Armando Trindade (in office from 1973 to 2000) to contribute to the development in education and health care.

    The Carmelite nuns, Sister Mary tells AsiaNews, lend their efforts to six different schools in Lahore, two in Gujranwala and one in Issanagri, as well as a hostel in Faisalabad (Punjab province). The first school - in the Urdu language - started six months after their arrival in Pakistan, in Mariam Nishat Colony; later the nuns started a class for adult literacy and a vocational center for girls. The next year saw the opening of a clinic, dedicated in particular to the most vulnerable of the population.

    The first challenge, said Sister Mary Dorothea, was to persuade families to let their daughters study. Upon their arrival, in fact, the boys generally received better education than their female counterparts. And the parents, according to a widespread opinion, judged it "futile" to send also their girls to school. It took years, and daily visits by the nuns to the families, for something to change; now the situation is reversed, the sister continues, so that "today the girls are more educated than the males." It is no coincidence, in fact, that in recent times even the Pakistani bishops' conference has been concerned with the problem, by appealing to families to let their boys study and thus to contribute to the advancement of society. "The boys don't attend on a regular basis", he confirmed, "and they don't seem interested in their studies" both due to the family environment in which they grow up, and the social reality that drives them away from books and notebooks.

    However, the work of helping young people to become literate, says the Carmelite nun, allowed them to "educate both the parents" and their families. And their environment, their lives, their homes "have changed for the better." "In the past, the parents", she adds, "were not willing to spend money on their children's education. But now they see the benefits that have derived from the study, and for this reason they urge their children on." The schools are not only a place of learning, but also serve to strengthen the student's faith and their spiritual formation with Masses, celebrations, prayer meetings, catechism and studying the word of God.

    Over the years, the work of the sisters has also met with resistance and difficulties of all sorts, as occurred in Mingora, a city of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the "beautiful Swat Valley," as Sister Mary remembers it. The Carmelites had launched a five-year plan of studies for girls, which they abandoned after a year and a half due to threats from Islamic fundamentalists. The nun said they constantly received threatening letters in which "the Taliban told us to leave the school" and it was "a frightening experience." For two weeks they found themselves "in the crossfire" between the army and the Taliban; five days after evacuating the school, the extremists bombed the building, then burned everything inside, "setting fire to fifty computers and hundreds of books, including valuable ones."

    The discouragement and fear did not, however, prevent the Sinhalese religious from starting their work anew, the mission dedicated to study and culture, thanks to the invitation of Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Msgr. Lawrence J. Saldanha, who entrusted to their care the diocesan institute of St. Joseph. "For the Jubilee Year", Sister Mary Dorothea concluded, "absolute priority must be given to education" as the only way to contribute concretely to the development of Pakistan.



    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    22/09/2004 PAKISTAN
    Church on the side of exploited brickkiln labourers

    14/04/2011 PAKISTAN
    Education, more than economy, antidote to "Talibanization" of Pakistan
    The country is held hostage by Muslim extremists who feed on ignorance and fear to maintain power. Government inertia pervades while the international community focuses on trade and weapons. Christian and Muslim leaders and intellectuals argue that any revival must start from the schools. An AsiaNews dossier on education in Pakistan.

    05/01/2013 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad: 25 years of Parish of the Assumption, built thanks to Muslims
    The Arooj-e-Mariam was built by joint Christian-Muslim contributions. A solemn Mass, confirmations of a group of the faithful and the opening of a grotto marked the celebrations for the 25 years. Bishop Rufin Anthony speaks of "moment of true faith" and calls for "more churches" to be built.

    14/04/2011 PAKISTAN
    Archbishop emeritus of Lahore: rethinking the curriculum, focusing on equal rights
    Archbishop Saldanha invites schools to follow the ideals promoted by Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. However, the government has proved weak and unable to improve the system. Christian and Muslim Institute must enhance collaboration. The call for more funds and resources for Catholic schools, which are essential in the national school system.

    05/04/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani schoolbooks full of contempt and bigotry against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs
    Pakistani curricula and textbooks promote extremism and violate minorities’ rights. An NCJP study notes distortions and requests a revision of the educational system, the first source of marginalization. Although minorities are guaranteed the possibility to deepen their own religion.

    Editor's choices

    The new bishop of Changzhi and the many voices on China-Vatican dialogue

    Bernardo Cervellera

    The ordination will take place on November 10 in the Cathedral. The bishop had been appointed by the Holy See at least two years ago. But he was waiting for the green light from Beijing. Similar situation in Chengdu. Fears for the presence of excommunicated bishops. Reconciliation between illegitimate and official bishops is not brought about by political gestures, but depends on personal and canonical procedures. A meeting between the Chinese delegation and the Vatican is not "imminent".


    Pope: the cruelty of those who kill children in Iraq “makes us weep”

    "Our hearts are shocked by the heinous acts of violence that have been committed for far too long against innocent citizens, be they Muslim, Christian or members of other ethnic groups and religions."  World Mission Day “is time of courage”.


    AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.


    News feed

    Canale RSScanale RSS 

    Add to Google


    IRAN 2016 Banner

    2003 © All rights reserved - AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153 - GLACOM®