09/29/2005, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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The fate of the disabled and the Church's commitment

by Inayat Bernard

Lahore (AsiaNews) – People living with disabilities have a tough time in Pakistan. The wider society and often their families are unable or unwilling to provide the care they need. This is where Milap, a Catholic non governmental organisation, comes in to offer assistance to the disabled, orphans and widows. Its director, Margaret Piara, stresses that her group's main efforts are dedicated to the disabled because with "what he have here we have to do everything".

"Children born with physical or mental handicaps are at the bottom," she said. "Our NGO tries to help them in the home, whenever parents are absent for work and siblings are unable or unwilling to help them."

When social workers make house calls, "family members sometimes cry; at other times they are stone silent; but in some cases they pray to God that He may take them after sending them in this world. The situation is very painful."

In the past few years Milap has provided medical check-ups, medicines, wheelchairs, walkers and crutches. But its main task is to help coordinate rehabilitation activities and find ways to aid those who were born with or affected by debilitating conditions to become more independent.

This was the case for Nasreen, a young woman who had to crawl to sewing school every day, to learn he trade. Kasur's parish priest and Milap provided her with a wheelchair and a sewing machine. Recently, the Governor of Punjab province awarded her a gold medal for her determination to overcome her disabilities. Now at her own initiative, she is teaching other young women and girls how to sew.

Mona Wilson is another example of what Milap does. The 20-year-old woman cannot speak. Her condition was aggravated by typhoid fever which she contracted some years ago and now she is paralysed.

Milap got in touch with her family and was able to convince them that she was not any different than any other human being.

Her father, John Wilson, said that when neighbours urged him to take his daughter to 'pirs', i.e. magical healers, who claim they can restore people's health . . . for a fee, he refused.  Instead, "we have kept our faith in Jesus and today we pray to him that He may heal her," he said.

Mona's elder brother Waseem spoke at a religious function where he urged the faithful to "pray for Milap that it may help the disabled even more".

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