Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Catholics in Pakistan yesterday observed a day of prayer to strengthen their efforts against the enormous damage caused by flooding in the country. The day of prayer, as well as the organization of the emergency, comes on the heels of an invitation issued by the Bishops' Conference on August 20.
Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad and National Director of Caritas, explains that in his diocese, Christians and Muslims are working together to raise funds and aid.
The bishops' letter, signed by Mgr. Lawrence Saldhana, president of the Episcopal Conference, describes the measure of the disaster: "Our country – it says - is facing the biggest natural disaster in its history. The super floods of the mighty River Indus have brought death and wide spread destruction – over 15 million people have been affected and thousands of homes have been washed away by the raging waters. We stand in solidarity with those who have suffered in this national tragedy”.
"At this critical moment of national tragedy - he continues - it is our Christian duty to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim and Hindu brethren and face the common calamity with courage and determination. We your religious leaders want to mobilize our limited resources in doing what we can to alleviate the sufferings of the many displaced persons".
"We Bishops appeal to all our members to come forward and help the flood-hit people with cooked foods or dry rations, and also provide tents for shelter and medicines against cholera and other diseases. Our youth are urged to serve as volunteers in relief camps".
Bishop Coutts said that with regard to Christians, the dioceses most affected are those of Hyderabad, Multan, Rawalpindi and Quetta, "but - he adds - the torrential rains have resulted in damage to life and people in other dioceses."
Yesterday, the bishop presided at Eucharistic adoration and a mass in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Faisalabad. He points out that in his diocese Christians and Muslims are working together to raise funds and aid for victims. Bishop Coutts recalls that in his diocese is the town of Gojra, where a year ago there was a massacre of Christians.
Jasmine Joseph, director of Caritas in Faisalabad, confesses that the task before the whole population of Pakistan is immense. Although the diocese has not been directly affected by the floods, there are many problems: crops were destroyed and the homes of many poor have collapsed. Jasmine said that Caritas is trying to reach more people. So far those helped are predominantly Muslim. "Right now the problem is not faith or religion, but to help those most affected."
Fr. Khalid Rashid, vicar general of Faisalabad and director of the Youth Commission is committed to motivating young people to participate in fundraising and relief operations. "We distribute aid to people affected and at the same time collect data on the most serious situations," he says.
"At the moment - he adds - young people are helping the poor who worked in brick factories. Torrential rains have brought down their huts and there is no work for them because of floodwaters. These days are really rough for them. "Within the story of this tragedy, there are also some news reports about discrimination in aid distribution against Christians and Ahmadis.