ROME, DEC. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Threats from Islamist militants in Pakistan obliged the Daughters of the Cross in that country to cancel celebrations planned to close the jubilee year marking the order’s 175th anniversary.
The news agency Eglises d’Asie of the Paris Foreign Missions Society has reported that the sisters canceled events planned for Nov. 25 due to threats from the Taliban and a general climate of insecurity in Pakistan.
The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross was founded in Liège, Belgium, in 1833, by Mother Marie Therese (Jeanne Haze). The sisters have worked in Pakistan since the second half of the 19th century, and currently run 11 convents, six schools and three homes for young girls.
The sisters also run St. Joseph’s Convent School, founded in Karachi in 1862, which has the reputation for educating women from the country’s elite families.
“There was a bomb alert in one of our schools at the beginning of November,” Sister Parveen Dildar Jacob, the congregation’s first provincial of Pakistani origin, told UCA News. “Because of the growing insecurity in the country, we have canceled the meetings in all the cities.”
The sisters have also reported that some of their girls’ schools have received threatening letters that demand their closure and threaten to attack them with explosives should they fail to comply.
Agence France Press reported in November that Taliban militants blew up three girls’ schools in Pakistan’s Khyber district during the month. Since 2007, hundreds of such attacks have been carried out on girls’ schools by militants seeking to enforce sharia law.
Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore visited the sisters Nov. 25 to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving on the day the sisters would have hosted a larger celebration.
During his homily he underlined the importance of the congregation’s name: “The Cross has a special meaning in Pakistan, that of sufferings and difficulties that we must face every day in this climate of terror that reigns in the country (…) Let us not be overtaken by discouragement.”