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Faith, hope, and generosity survive severe flooding in Pakistan

PAKISTAN

Rizwan TABASSUM | AFP

John Burger - published on 09/15/22

Death toll has reached up to 1,500 ... half of whom are children.

Faith and generosity are two qualities that have not been submerged amid the devastating flooding in Pakistan, according to three Catholic bishops from the country.

Close to 1,500 people have died in nationwide deluges, brought on by record levels of rainfall and melting glaciers in the south Asian country. Half of the dead are children. Many people’s homes and livelihoods – in most cases, their livestock or crops – have been wiped out, and standing water has given rise to water- and mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue and cholera.

Archbishop Benny Travas of Karachi, Bishop Samson Shukardin, O.F.M., of Hyderabad, and Bishop Khalid Rehmat, O.F.M. Cap., Vicar Apostolic of Quetta, spoke to members of the media in a Zoom conference organized by Aid to the Church in Need Thursday. The three spoke of the dire need right now for food, medicines, mosquito nets, and temporary shelter for flood survivors.

In the long term, they said, people’s homes will need to be rebuilt, and the Pakistani government will need to come up with better plans to deal with such disasters in the future. 

In some cases, said Bishop Rehmat, even the land beneath people’s washed-away homes has been seriously compromised. 

The three religious leaders expressed their appreciation for help from Pope Francis, who sent a gift of $5,000, and other aid agencies, such as Aid to the Church in Need, a papal foundation. Caritas Pakistan has been among the many on-the-ground agencies responding to immediate needs, they said. 

But they complained that the flooding has surfaced a problem with discrimination, with some Christians being denied government help, only to see Muslims and Hindus receiving the assistance instead. 

Archbishop Travas said that one of his priests reported that when some Hindus who had converted to Christianity went to seek aid, the government and certain NGOs denied it to them. Bishop Shukardin said that Christians sometimes are told to go to their church for aid.

“They think the Church has plenty of money,” he said.  

“This mentality of discrimination is everywhere,” Bishop Rehmat attested.

A flood of generosity

But people are banding together to help one another, they said. “Everybody in Karachi is coming forward and asking ‘How can we assist?’ … People are touched by this misery that they see,” said Travas.

The archbishop of Karachi spoke about the stress the situation places on his spiritual life, saying he is saddened to see children begging who have never begged before. “There’s a kind of spiritual dryness that comes in one’s life when you see so much,” he said. 

But the generosity he’s seen among people, even though they are poor, has encouraged him. 

Rehmat assented, saying, “People are poor but they are generous.”

Shukardin added that the flooding has led more people in the Muslim-majority country to go to mosque or church. “They are very much relying on God, on Allah,” he said, saying that “only Allah can protect us from these miseries. … Spiritually, we are united in supporting each other.”

Rehmat said that he and the few priests he has in his area of Baluchistan are visiting affected areas, celebrating Masses, giving sermons, and guiding locals, and helping them deal with their grief. 

“They have great faith,” Bishop Rehmat said, “because they know we will overcome all these difficulties.”

Tags:
Christians in Pakistan
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