Lahore - "Education is the only way to emancipate the Christian community in Pakistan. A change of mentality is urgent; too many young people do nothing but replace their parents who work as street or sewer cleaners, or work as day laborers in factories": says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Waseem Walter, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Pakistan and parish priest in Faisalabad, Pakistani city of Punjab.
His vision is shared by Younas Ejaz, a catechist in the Catholic parish of Mehmood Booti area in Lahore: "Very often the problem for Christians in Pakistan is their own mentality that penalizes them, lacks self-esteem, and marginalizes them. We need to get out of the vicious circle of considering ourselves only suitable for cleaning sewers. If in society others consider them like this, the main problem is that they themselves consider themselves in this way", he explains to Agenzia Fides. Ejaz highlights that "Christians must be the first to support their social promotion. My father - he recalls - was a worker who cleaned the streets and at one point managed to change job and this allowed him to send his children to school and to change their lives. Today I still have many relatives doing the same job, according to a current mentality of exploitation and discrimination: a snare from which we must free ourselves". Ejaz today is an engineer who works at the airport. He is responsible for the liturgy in his parish, where there is also an elementary school, the St. Francis School. "Education is a key factor, it is crucial", he explains to Fides.
This is why the Catholic community in Pakistan is very committed to building and managing schools, also thanks to different religious orders, and often Christian children of very poor families are helped in supporting the expenses, because their families cannot pay school fees and therefore it would be almost impossible to send them to school.
Fr. Waseem, however, sees a prospect of hope: "Change starts with young people, who today in Pakistan have a growing desire for autonomy and freedom. I believe that, over a decade, the social situation can change. Among the new generations there is the awareness that education is an essential factor. Now let us sow - he says - while the fruits will be harvested in the future".
Christians of various confessions are about 2% of the Pakistani population, which exceeds 200 million inhabitants. >>