The diocese of Hyderabad is in the south of Pakistan and covers a vast area of over 130,000 kmÂ². Yet there are only around 50,000 Catholics here among a Muslim population of 28 million. Most of the Catholics in this region belong to the ethnic minorities, many of them formerly Hindus. They find themselves on the very bottom rung of society and are often condemned to work as day labourers in the fields of the big landowners or as brick makers in the brick furnaces. Generally speaking they are entirely at the mercy of their wealthy masters. They also perform such menial tasks as street sweepers or toilet cleaners in the towns. They are paid only irregularly, sometimes more, sometimes less, and entire families can quickly fall into debt. If a family member falls ill or is put out of work, or if his master fails to pay his wages, then the entire family is forced to borrow money, generally at extortionate interest rates. As a result the family falls ever deeper into debt and into a vicious spiral of poverty and dependency. Many families become trapped for generations in this cycle of debt slavery. It is a very heavy burden and crushes many people.
Bishop Samson Shukardin writes: “Just to put something on the table each day is a daily battle and a daily reality for these families. The spiral of poverty, unemployment and indebtedness drives many into drug addiction and other forms of dependency and brings upon their families a veritable plague of conflict, arguments, discord and in many cases domestic violence.” Hence it is the bishop‘s deepest wish to be able to help these families to stay together in these difficult circumstances and live their Christian faith in such a way that peace, harmony and love can prevail within them. To this end he has established a programme to strengthen and support married couples and their families.
(A priest blessing the participants of a pastoral programme of the Diocesan Family Life Commission in Hyderabad © Aid to the Church in Need)
Under the direction of a religious sister who has been working for 25 years in the family apostolate and with the help of trained and experienced married couples, courses and meetings are being offered in all 17 parishes of the diocese, for young couples about to be engaged, for married couples in the process of establishing their family and for family groups in general. How to be good parents? How the family can pray together? How can couples learn how to talk together and respect each other? How can we establish a Christian marriage and a Christian family life, based on the Sacraments? The programme includes these and many other such questions.
The bishop has written to us to express his support. “They have my full backing and support”, he writes, “since the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and of the Church.” Only if we nurture the Christian life of families and support them pastorally will the Church be faithful to her mission as “a light to the nations”. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has promised $18,500 for the support of these courses for families and married couples in the 17 parishes of the diocese.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929