In August 2017, a small group from Britain spent a number of days in Pakistan on a learning experience.
Here Ann Wilson – one of the participants – shares some reflections of the group’s journey:
Here Danny Sweeney, one of the participants, shares some reflections of the group’s journey:
Below, Henrietta Cullinan, one one the participants, shares some written reflections of the group’s journey:
The four of us spent a full day in Hyderabad, with Fr Liam, Columban and Danish, a Columban co-worker. In the morning we visited two schools and a catechist and in the afternoon, Latifabad, Unit N0. 6 where we spoke to a lawyer working for bonded labourers, followed by a visit to St John Arif Church, where a Columban Sister runs a project for Christian children who need extra support at school. It’s a sort of homework club. The students put on an Independence Day show, our fourth in three days, followed by food.
Sitting in the Kali Mori school office, with the first round of tea and biscuits of the day, we heard the headmaster tell us how difficult it was to keep the school going financially. He clicked through the columns of a spreadsheet as he talked, seeing how many months of fees were owing. The pupils are the children of day labourers who can’t always get work, so the fees don’t come in, which means he then can’t pay the teachers. The teachers have to be very dedicated or else they move on and get replaced with teachers of poor quality.
At the huge girl’s school, St Mary’s High School, which is where Benazir Bhutto went, we had our second round of cake and drinks. The headmistress told us that a large proportion of the girls are Muslim but she was hoping to offer more bursaries for poor Christian girls. This huge school is a bit like a Catholic public school in the UK. The headmistress told us quite openly that the profits all go to her order. She tells us the Muslim parents prefer her school as the students and staff are all honest, no one cheats in exams. The timetable was on the wall, in a giant wooden fame with the lessons on cards, that looked as if it hadn’t changed for years. Walking through the cool, polished corridors of St Mary’s High School, seeing the teenage girls studying, destined to be doctors, was quite a different experience from our time in Badin. The students and staff all speak English, they arrive in taxis. It is an elite school. All over the school there were servants to guide, look after the doors and corridors. Then there were a few steps, but in the unbearable heat, they felt like a hundred steps, into the cathedral precinct next door where we learned how the traditional water coolers work, the huge stone jars filled with layers of different grades of sand to filter the water and make it safe to drink, or at least safer.
We travelled between places by rickshaw. On the first journey the driver had to stop and remind me to pick up my ‘duppatta’ (scarf). After that I was careful to make sure all the floating parts of my attire were well tucked in, otherwise I could be another Isadora Duncan. Three of us crammed into the shelf-like seat, covered in shiny plastic. I felt as if I was going to slide out. The weight of us western passengers slowed the rickshaw right down as it struggled up the hills but as soon as it picked up speed again, sailing over the flyovers, past a lake, past the giant painted bill boards saying TOLET which looked to me like ‘toilet’ and made me chuckle, inside of course. It was a real thrill.
Below, Mauricio Silva, Columban Inter-Religious Dialogue Coordinator, shares some written reflections of the group’s journey:
We will leave Pakistan having spent more than a week in here and having visited the cities of Badin, Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, Karachi and other smaller villages.
For our journey back to Karachi the group split into two, Henrietta and Ann went by car with Dan and Danny, while Liam and I used public transport. The four-hour journey on the M9 (the ‘super highway’ which connects the cities of Hyderabad and Karachi) encountered countless of diversions which are testimony to a more than 15 years delay in its completion due to lack of federal resources. Twice military personnel got on the bus to check the passengers ID, moments in which I tried to become invisible – most likely I did not succeed. Fortunately, the checks were not that rigorous and a photocopy of my passport was enough.
Once in Karachi we were reunited with our female companions at the lovely convent of the Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary on the grounds of impressive St Patrick’s Cathedral. Military and civil personnel were preparing for the state funeral of ‘Pakistan’s Mother Teresa’, Sr Ruth Pfau, who spent her life in a successful fight to eradicate leprosy. Having in my mind plenty of stories of the struggles faced by the Christian minority in this country, inside the Cathedral I prayed that the recognition gained by this Catholic nun, may be a sign of hope for a better future for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.
After that, we got again into a couple of colorful rickshaws to make way to to visit the Mazar-e-Quaid, the Jinnah Mausoleum, the resting place of the founder of Pakistan. This magnificent building and the beautiful gardens that surround it, made me feel a sense of peace and tranquility at the end of our journey. We were reminded constantly of the vision and importance of Jinnah for Pakistan. One quote I read in this memorial got stuck in my mind:
If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.
The evening came to a close with a visit to a restaurant were once again we shared food and reflections. The actual restaurant was not necessarily what I would have expected, but reflected well the essence of what I experienced in our Invitation to Mission trip to Pakistan: simplicity and friendliness. Somehow we managed to say our final prayers at that place and after a rushed and late visit to the markets to buy a few ‘souvenirs’ and presents we went to sleep. The following morning we would be flying from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi back to the UK.
The video reflections are available on the following YouTube Links: