» 06/22/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN - SRI LANKA
Sinhalese Carmelites educate girls in Pakistan
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
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Pakistani schoolbooks full of contempt and bigotry against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs
Pakistani curricula and textbooks promote extremism and violate minoritiesâ€™ 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.
POLAND - CHINA - WYD
Beijing's tricks and violence to stop Chinese youth from reaching WYD
Vincenzo Faccioli Pintozzi
The government yesterday blocked a group of 50 young pilgrims who had already boarded a plane bound for Krakow. Interrogated for hours by immigration, they were "admonished" and sent home with orders not to contact anyone abroad. Meanwhile, "young Chinese Catholics" hang around central World Youth Day locations in groups of five or six, with the task of spying on fellow countrymen. They work for cultural institutes or Chinese companies in Poland.
ISLAM - EUROPE
Fr Samir: Islamic terror in France and Germany a crisis of integration, but above all of politics
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