For the love of Christ, for the love of teaching
We are called here in Pakistan to stand at the foot of the cross.Nasreen Daniel SL
To my bafflement and grief, Sharifan Bibi, who is about 40, entered my school office, dumped herself on the chair and started crying. I gave her a glass of water and asked the reason for her crying. She said that she has three children: a boy who never went to school and is learning to repair motorcycles and two girls, 13 and 14, who never attended school and were looked after by their paternal grandmother. Now the grandmother has died, and what to do with the young growing daughters? Sharifan said she is hesitant to take her daughters to work with her to clean houses, and she can’t leave them alone at home.
I had her wait in the school office and asked two Loretto sisters and two young women who are prospective members of our Community to come to the convent, where I shared Sharifan’s problem. “What can we do?” I asked.
We are called here in Pakistan to stand at the foot of the cross, and the cross has many shapes and sizes for us each time we come across it. This time we were facing a different challenge. I asked my Community, “If I take the girls even though they have never attended school — normally the kids come at the age of 3; they are not three but 13 and 14 — which class could they join?”
After much pondering, knowing that we in Loretto have never turned anyone from our door, we decided to ask Sharifan to bring the girls to school; they would sit in my office, and I would teach them there. If I were not free I would request that any free teacher teach them. In the evening we each would take a different subject and try to teach them two classes per year. In a few years they would reach their age group in the class.
We have been faithful to our commitment, and the girls have been eager to come and learn. As for our Community prayer time, we shifted it a bit later so we can accommodate Christ who comes to us in many faces.
Pakistani women’s plight
When I was writing my Ph.D. thesis on women, violence and religion, I prayed and hoped that in my lifetime the situation would change, and that I would be so lucky to see that change happening. This was about 15 years ago. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, every year more than 1,000 young women from minority groups are raped, tortured and forcibly converted. Knowing the situation of women overall and Christians in particular, I knew that they are the easiest prey because they don’t have money to bribe and don’t have anyone rich in a position to help.
While it is true that Christian women are worse off than Muslim women, all Pakistani women, regardless of their religious affiliation, are seen as not fully human and consequently become victims in a male dominated society.
Editor’s note: In August, the Sisters of Loretto in Pakistan were informed that another congregation of sisters would take over St. Anthony School. The Sisters of Loretto in Pakistan are moving to a new location in Lahore where they will continue the mission of teaching and being of service as they stand with the people at the foot of the cross. Please pray for the sisters, their students and friends and the Loretto Community during this transition.
Donations to our Pakistan fund will supply scholarships and meals. If you wish to donate online, you can do so here.
To read all the articles in the Fall 2023 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.