The provincial government of Pakistan’s Sindh region has presented land in Karachi to religious sisters in appreciation of their educational work in the country. Governor Ishrat ul Ebad of Sindh presented the 99-year lease papers for 1.5 acres of land to the Jesus and Mary Sisters during a ceremony on 24 September at Government House, Karachi. Sisters Mary Langan and Berchmanns Conway received the papers on behalf of the sisters.
The land is in central Karachi and has been given by the government as a free gift in recognition of the educational work of the Jesus and Mary Sisters in Pakistan. It will enable them to expand and consolidate the school for girls they have run in Karachi since 1952.
The Jesus and Mary Sisters arrived in what is now Pakistan in 1856 and now conduct schools in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Mariakhel, Murree and Toba Tek Singh. The former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jehangir - president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and H.E. Tehmina Janjua, present ambassador of Pakistan to Italy, are past students of Jesus and Mary schools. Sr Berchmanns was decorated this year by the Pakistani government for her services to education and Sr Mary Langan will be similarly honoured on Pakistan Day in 2013.
Governor Ishrat ul Ebad and the government of Sindh have made significant gestures of appreciation and support for the work of the Catholic Church in Pakistan. Three Catholic hospitals in Sindh have been exempted from property tax. The government is in the process of granting tax exemption to forty schools which are run by the diocese of Hyderabad in economically-depressed urban areas and in the Thar desert for tribal peoples. He recently presided over a ceremony at Government House on 31 August during which 30 Parkari Koli tribal families who lost everything during the recent floods received the deeds to four acres of land and new permanent houses constructed as part of the medical and relief outreach work of St. Elizabeth Hospital, Hyderabad.
During the 24 September ceremony, the governor emphasized that the narrow exclusive fundamentalist attitude held by some sects and politico-religious organizations in Pakistan is not the inclusive ideology and vision of the founder of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Praising the role and presence of the Catholic Church as an integral part of Pakistani society, the governor quoted the first message Jinnah gave to the nation on 15 August 1947: “The creation of the new State has placed a tremendous responsibility on the citizens of Pakistan. It gives them an opportunity to demonstrate to the world how a nation, containing many elements, can live in peace and amity and work for the betterment of all its citizens, irrespective of caste or creed.”
Fr Robert McCulloch is an Irish Columban priest now based on Rome, after serving for three decades in Pakistan.