With illiteracy forcing thousands of Christians to work in slave-like conditions across Pakistan, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said January 15, 2019, that it is helping them escape the poverty trap through education.
ACN is providing Christian education resources, including its Child’s Bible, as part of a drive led by bishops to tackle illiteracy.
Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, the president of Pakistan’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told ACN that illiteracy was rife among Christians, adding: “Education is of prime importance.
“Many people cannot continue their education, either because there are no schools or no money.”
He added: “Our community has to have access to education.
“When Christians are educated and have had professional training, then the image of our community will change.”
Father Sylvester Joseph, a parish priest in Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese, told ACN: “Most of our people are illiterate”.
In southern Pakistan’s Hyderabad Diocese, Bishop Samson Shukardin is helping marginalized tribal groups with education programmes designed to tackle poverty.
Bishop Shukardin said: “The catechists try to convince the parents to make a sacrifice, though not at all easy, and send their children to one of our schools.
“The illiteracy rate among them is high the Church is active among them with catechesis, faith-formation, education, and awareness.
“Regular home visitation is a very important part of the pastoral outreach, which gives the opportunity for hearing their stories, some catechesis, the celebration of the Eucharist and the singing of Christian hymns in their language.”
ACN has also supplied a vehicle to transport Catholic families for classes at Hyderabad’s parish center and Joti Pastoral Educational Cultural Centre in Mirpurkhas.
Bishop Shukardin said: “The parents are encouraged to send their children to school, either our Catholic schools if there is one in their neighborhood or otherwise to other schools.
“As a result of all this work, there now are now growing Christian communities among the tribal groups and a growing literacy rate which means that more and more of them can get better employment.”