Build a Chapel for a New Christian Village for Liberated Slaves in Pakistan
Project Code: 328-01-19
The Parish of Saint Paul, some 15 miles south-west of Faisalabad in Pakistan, conveys an atmosphere of peace. Students have painted the outside enclosure wall, within which stand a church, a presbytery and school, with colorful images of a peaceful world. One of these depicts a lamb, snuggling up trustingly against a lion. The priest has planted fruit trees, and inside the inner courtyard canaries twitter and pigeons coo, while the children play football.
This parish, which was established only in February 2010, serves 30 different villages, and the parish priest, Father Emmanuel Parvez, certainly has his hands full. "In many villages, the people do know that they are Catholics, but they have never seen a priest before," he writes. "The catechists are a great help to me. They go into the villages, invite the people to pray and come to Holy Mass, visit the sick and prepare the faithful for the reception of the Sacraments. But we urgently need to have a second priest here."
This is one of the reasons why ACN has already helped for the construction of a new presbytery, since the old one only had one room which served the priest as bedroom, dining room, sitting room and workroom combined, and which was already too small, even for one priest.
Father Emmanuel has many plans. Above all he wants to improve the conditions of life for all the local people. Even the children have to work in one of the 25 local brickworks that one sees by the roadside everywhere in this area. They make the bricks with their bare hands and leave them to dry in the sun. If it rains before the clay bricks have been fired in the kilns, whose tall chimneys dot the countryside, then all their work is wasted. The factory owner simply says, "How can I help the fact that it has started to rain?" And he refuses to pay them.
The people are trapped in conditions of near slavery and live with their families in unhygienic conditions of near-destitution. They can be fired from their jobs from one day to the next, and then they have to wander around and seek shelter somewhere. Worst of all, however, is when they have to borrow money from the factory owner, for example if someone in the family falls ill and needs medical treatment. The result is that the families become still more indebted and dependent.
For generations they cannot free themselves from this debt slavery because they can never manage to pay back the initial loan at the horrendous rates of interest demanded. Now Father Emmanuel Parvez is helping families like these to escape from their slavery. He wants to build a new, small settlement, initially for 80 families. Each will have its own little house, and there will be a school, a small medical aid post and a chapel. It is for the construction of this chapel that he has asked ACN for help.
In fact, he has already been given a special present for this chapel, a 2-foot-high statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. This copy of the miraculous image has come directly from the famous shrine in Prague and will be a source of blessings and consolation for the Christians here in Pakistan. For weeks, hundreds of children waited for the arrival of the Child Jesus in their village and prepared for it with prayer. When the image finally arrived, they welcomed it with songs and dancing. These children, who have experienced poverty and slavery since their earliest years, are overjoyed with the statue, and through it Jesus can be given a visible place of honor in the chapel of the new village, where these former wage slaves are now for the first time able to live a life of genuine human dignity.
Father Emmanuel is particularly concerned for children like these, who face many and continuing threats here in Pakistan, from poverty, child labor, terrorism and violence. He would like to help them to enjoy a better future and protect them. He has set up numerous different activities for children, activities that are open to Muslim children as well. By playing and reflecting together, they will come to a good and peaceful understanding in life, he believes. He is loved by many Muslim families as well, because he helps them, too.
But not only is Father Emmanuel tirelessly active in his own parish, he also lectures at the seminary in Faisalabad, for he is a biblical scholar, too. He also writes books for children and young people, based on the parables and miracles of Jesus. The students can perform these stories as plays, for example, and so come to appreciate them more deeply. He has written many other books besides, aimed at deepening faith.
Aged 62, Father Emmanuel is also, in fact, a cousin of the Minorities' Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was brutally murdered by extremists in March 2011, gunned down for having opposed Pakistan's iniquitous blasphemy laws. And while several of Shahbaz Bhatti's family members have since left Pakistan because they fear for their lives, Father Emmanuel is committed to staying on, even though he himself has also received threatening phone calls. As he says, "It is better to be a martyr than a refugee."
There is still a great deal that Father Emmanuel wants to do for the people in Pansara, and many who needs his priestly ministry, his help, and his intrepid witness. As one part of his work, Father Emmanuel Parvez has asked our help in building a chapel in his village of former slaves. We would like to support his project with a contribution of $7,300. Will you help Father Emmanuel build this chapel for these liberated slaves in Pakistan? We are sure he will remember you in his grateful prayers.
This project is an example of our work. Your donation will be attributed either to this or to another similar project that accords with the pastoral needs that ACN witnesses.