Part of our History: Our journey in PAKISTAN

   It is now 6 months since we closed our community in Multan (Pakistan).  

   We would like to share our itinery from 1958 to January 21, 2016 including a temporary closure from 1965 until 1972.

   At Christmas 1972 the first Little sister from Pakistan with another from France eventually found a house on the outskirts of Karachi. They received the key on Christmas Eve 1972 and we stayed in the same house until 1995 earning a living doing sewing work and other occasional work.   

   In 1987 we started a new community in Multan, a town in the centre of the country about 1000 kms (621 miles) from Karachi.  We lived there for 28 years.  In 1995 we left Karachi completely in order to be closer to each other.  Two of us went to live in Khanewal, a town situated about 50 kms (31 miles) from Multan which made it easier to get together.  This continued until 2005 when we “regrouped” and all came together in Multan.

   We worked in many different areas: in Karachi sewing, then as a nurse in the local Health Centre, occupational therapy with those suffering from leprosy, and physiotherapy with children with special needs (physical and mental).  Some were able to find temporary work in factories.  In Multan and in Khanewal, we continued our work with children with special needs, we did some volunteer work in our local parish school and Zeenat, Also from Pakistan, undertook some informal teaching in another neighbourhood.

   Msgr Patras, our bishop in Multan, wished to have a programme for children with special needs, to bear witness among Muslims of the compassionate love of the Church.  That is how Martina, with a small team, and later Anila, Mr Sarfraz and others, committed themselves to this programme which brought joy and encouragement to numerous children and through which many mothers found support and friendship.  The mothers of children with special needs have so much suffering, prejudices and misunderstandings to endure in our current society!  If they have received some support, solidarity and friendship, just imagine what our departure means to them and to the little sisters working with them!  One month before our departure, Anila found a young woman from our neighbourhood to replace her in visiting the families of young people with severe special needs.  That was a great consolation for everyone.  Thanks be to God the programme continues with a competent and dedicated manager and teachers!

   For political reasons, we were unable to have the exchanges we would have liked with our little sisters in India and in Afganistan.  However we were very much supported by Fr Emmanuel Asi, always like a brother to us; our new Bishop Benny Travas, available and welcoming; and J. Joyce, a Columban Missionary who accompanied us on our last retreat before leaving.  We are also so grateful to the Presentation Sisters and to the Dominicans and to others for their most generous hospitality.

   We also left behind us the Brother Charles group of young people who met at our house for times of adoration and gospel sharing and who have promised to continue our mission!  The general situation of the country is very unstable, especially for minorities. And yet we find people, both Muslims and Christian, who are not afraid to stand up for the rights of the most deprived, to take risks and sometimes they too are victimised.  We have just heard of the death of Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi who was dedicated to serving those most in need.  Indeed he was known as the Pakistani Saint Vincent de Paul!

   After 28 years of presence, our leaving of Gulzeb (our neighbourhood in Multan) was very moving.  Our neighbours and families of the Christian community insisted on inviting us before we left.  As well as the Protestant “brothers” mission. So often we supported each other and especially during the illness and death of their 107 year old grandfather.  B and his wife had welcomed us in 1987: “Your arrival made us so happy; you had left your own families to share in our joys and suffering!” R, who is a midwife in the local health centre, has been coming for 27 years to share with Rehana about her problems with her husband and children: “Usually I don’t come for solutions but to be listened to and I always leave comforted.”  She loved to eat with us.  Our “sisters”, daughters of our “parents”, our closest Muslim neighbours in Kerachi who had adopted us as their daughters 40 years ago, came to say their goodbyes.  There were always visitors for the different religious feasts.  Martina told us that at the farewell party at the UmeedGah Centre where she and Anila worked, they shared their feelings, their gratitude for the journey travelled together, for the love received in spite of differences of creed or of milieu.  “It was, indeed a moving moment when the mothers and the children from the physical rehabilitation group sang and mimed a lovely song about friendship (dosti) and then hugged us with roses.  Those fragrant embraces symbolised our experiences and were accompanied by tears of friendship!”  She also spoke about her Muslim friend S mother of Z who comes to the UmeedGah Centre: “We have shared so much over the years.  We feel we are sisters.  She has become a true friend to all of us.   However, when I told her that we were leaving she became angry, sad and overwhelmed and said she would write to the little sister in charge.  It was such a shock and it seemed like a betrayal on our part.  Little by little, she came to a profound acceptance, welcoming the Will of God, and as if she were sending us forth on our mission to other peoples!  How can we ever forget such close bonds?”  

   The different places where we lived, all those we met in different parts of the country, the families of our Little sisters in Karachi and in Faisalabad, all our many friends in various places throughout the country are very dear to us.  Our shared memories will always bind us together in joy, in hope and in gratitude in spite of the challenges.  We keep the last hours of January 21, 2016, in our hearts and minds, the yard full of friends and neighbours, the older people blessing us, and then the prayer at UmeedGah with the mothers, the children, our co-workers and also those who for the past year took care of our house night and day and who are now friends.

   And in conclusion we wish you our warmest affection and ask your prayers for our dear friends.