[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 141 / Dec. 15 .2007 ]
Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)  
Lately, I paid a visit to Karachi (Pakistan) on business related to my work as member of the Overseas Missionary Evangelization Committee. As it is well known, over 95% of Pakistanis are Muslims. Christians, being a minority group, have a low social status and constitute an independent residential area or colony.
Although that is not the case with the crowded Catholic colony, the only Christian religious group in existence, the slum areas remain the focus of many problems, like crime and lack of public order. In the City of Karachi, Catholic churches and schools are built next to each other in the colony or nearby the religious houses along one street and give the impression that Christians are living together.
While in Karachi I paid a visit to a Center for the disabled, called Rahat Ga (in the local Urdu language means a place of rest), a training center for children with mental and physical disabilities, age 6 to 15.
I introduced before, in a former Bulletin, this institution within the frame of Pakistan's social welfare system, but, this time, I realized that not only the social welfare but also educational realities are serious issues in Pakistan.
In Japan, there are welfare schools and ordinary schools for the education of children with disabilities, but there are very few such institutions in Pakistan. Disabled children and even ordinary children find it difficult to receive education there.
The cause is because, as different from Japan, the whole educational system remains at a low level and the percentage of Pakistani children of school age attending school is quite low. Those children are already absorbed into the labor force and poverty is a major cause that hinders education.
On the other hand, those receiving high education with free clothing, food and shelter are the Taliban (Islam theology schools), among the Muslims and the Catholic small seminaries and theology schools. As the mass media reports, the Taliban concentrate on Islam theology schools and the radical groups among them are youth that receive a high level of education. I could understand this time visiting the local schools the reason why those problems continue to exist.
Within such a context, it is easy to realize why much of the education for the disable and many other educational institutions cannot survive without financial assistance. The Rahat Gah center is small. The training program consists of simple tasks, like doing games and advancing further into assembling activities. The Director, Br. Matsumoto, explained that is trying to apply the Montessori system, using just everything at hand because educational materials are very expensive to get.
Many applicants know about the place by word of mouth and are attracted by its good educational content. There are no plans to expand the actual place, but to solidify the work administration issues, like staff hiring and the acquisition of a car are needed. But, at this moment, according to Br. Matsumoto, the reason not to expand and do a big funding campaign is because, to continue keeping the educational level is more important than to build a big institution. In other words, the solidification of the institution contributing in small ways to the disable, with the cooperation of local staff in all possible viable ways, is the important issue.
When I was departing from Pakistan, Br. Matsumoto told me: "Abe san, evangelization in Pakistan requires a lot of patience. To take care of these children, as well as the understanding of the goals of an institution like this, also require much patience." The word, patience, still remains inside my ears. I, faintly, felt that the expression shows the difficulties involved in doing service and evangelization in a country with so many problems.
In case of financial assistance, please contact: Saint Joseph Franciscan Monastery
4-2-39 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo-to
Zip Code: 106-0032
Tel. 03-3403-8099 ex. 208 / Fax. 3401-3215
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