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.
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The Borana people live in the far south of Ethiopia, in a region bordering on Kenya. In many ways the Catholic Church is in her infancy here, since Catholic missionaries only arrived in the region for the first time 45 years ago. In that time, the Holy Spirit Fathers (Spiritans) who work in this area, have established three parishes and several schools.
For over 240 years, until it became a republic in the year 2008, Nepal was the one and only Hindu monarchy in the world. And while since 2006 Hinduism has no longer been the official state religion, Hindus nonetheless make up the overwhelming majority at over 80% of the population and the country is still is strongly characterised by Hinduism. The second largest group, at a little over 9%, are the Buddhists, while Christians account for just 1.4% of the population - and Catholics are a minority among them. Numbering just 8,000 or so Catholic faithful, they are in fact no more than a tiny minority of 0.1%.
The archdiocese of Antsiranana in the extreme north of the island of Madagascar has an area of 37,924 km2 - larger than Belgium and almost the size of Switzerland. Yet with just 1.6 million inhabitants, it is relatively thinly populated. A little over 40% of the population is Catholic, and the 65 diocesan priests and 42 religious priests in the archdiocese have to care for parishes that are in many cases as large as dioceses would be in other parts of the world.
The apostolic vicariate of Gambella lies in the extreme west of Ethiopia, on the frontier with South Sudan. It is a remote and underdeveloped region where there is widespread poverty. Many of the children there are visibly malnourished, and there are recurrent and intermittent intertribal conflicts, above all between the more settled, farming tribes and the nomadic herders. The cattle eat the farmers‘ crops, and the farmers are taking away the traditional grazing lands of the herders. In this conflict over scarce resources there are frequent and violent clashes. Moreover, in recent times there have also been clashes between the local population and refugees of the Nuer tribespeople from South Sudan. Currently, in fact, according to the UNHCR, there are over 330,000 refugees from South Sudan in the area - almost as many people again as the existing population of Gambella state. In early 2016 in particular there was violent unrest here, with numerous deaths. The Catholic Church is working strenuously for peace and reconciliation and is the only force in this region - a potential powder keg - that is capable of combating the violence, hatred and rising anger.