Invitation to Mission

Invitation to Mission

From Britain to Pakistan

In August 2017, a small group from Britain spent a number of days in Pakistan on a learning experience.

Anne Wilson

Here Ann Wilson – one of the  participants –  shares some reflections of the group’s journey: 

Anne Wilson’s Reflections

Danny Sweeney

Here Danny Sweeney, one of the participants, shares some reflections of the group’s journey: 

Danny Sweeney’s Reflections 

Henrietta Cullinan

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.

Mauricio Silva

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:

Anne Wilson:

Danny Sweeney: