THE CHRISTMAS SEASON OF LIGHT
with the joyful good news of keys to their own homes for some Balochi…
‘ROOM AT THE INN, AFTER ALL!’
Advent is a season of great expectations with its symbol, the Advent Wreath gradually lighting up the way, enabling us each week to unwrap the story of Christ’s coming. John the Baptist, ‘who was a lamp alight and shining’ is a central character helping us prepare the Way. In fact, Christmas is all about light…a light shining in the darkness…and in many ways it is like a festival of lights. When we light our Christmas lights and candles and look at the glow from them we can look deeper and see them pointing and leading us to the real Light, who is Jesus Christ.
As we Columban Sisters in Pakistan enter into this Christmas Season of Light and giving, we cannot but be conscious of all of you throughout the world whose hearts were alight with compassion for our suffering people here in Pakistan during the floods of 2010.
On Friday December 16th 2011 we gathered with the women and men of the Balochi tribe with whom we journeyed since the floods and handed over to them the keys of their homes which we got built through all the donations we received from you.
It was an awe-filled experience as we gathered and invited the Mulvi of the area to call down Allah’s blessings on this occasion and we read from the Bible the parable of the Last Judgment where Jesus tells us:
“When I was hungry, you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty you gave me to drink; when I was homeless you visited me; when I was naked you clothed me…”
To this scripture reading there was a strong resonance felt by the Muslims to each verse as they well identified with …being hungry…homeless…naked…thirsty…and on all these occasions ….you came to me. In this way we shared with them the light of our Christian faith lived out in this Islamic State of Pakistan.
After this faith introduction some men came forward and gave testimony to their experience and raised their hands to Allah in gratitude for the gift they were about to receive…a place to lay their heads…a home. It was explained to them that we were not an NGO but a Christian faith based group and it was the contributions of many ordinary people that made this project possible.
A Muslim couple, both of whom are lawyers, addressed the people in their own language and spoke to them on the rights of women. The women and children present looked much disheveled and seemed to have deteriorated drastically after their year of hardship living by the side of the road. Hopefully they will pick up gradually in their own home.
This was followed by the calling forth by name of a member of each family who was then given a lock and key to their new home
Graciousness was the order of the day but it was not without its hiccups! Somebody did not like their neighbour and because these people are of a warrior tribe whose women keep ‘purdah’ (remain hidden), confrontation comes easily as well as resistance, so it took some tact to iron it out! Sister Rebecca presenting the first lock and key (photo right)
Sisters Marie, Perlita and Roberta in turn presented the key and lock to other families and the new owners then took possession of their new house
Pakistan cannot be beaten in hospitality which was shown by the children inviting us to their nearby village to meet their families, who make beautiful handmade bed spreads in traditional Sindhi cultural patterns that are sold in the cities. The beauty of this location for the people newly moving in is that they will blend in well with their neighbours who are obviously very welcoming. It is also close to the school and mosque.
On behalf of Marie, Perlita and Roberta, we wish you a blessed Christmas filled with joy and thankfulness.
With deepest gratitude for your prayers, encouragement and support always,
After thirty houses had been allocated the remaining ten were locked awaiting the future arrival of their residents, we all partook of a delicious chicken rice ‘byriani’ dish which we brought with us and it was much appreciated by all.
Gradually the children started creeping over the wall from the local village and joined our festivity.
As our team left, we were showered with hugs and blessings calling upon Allah to bless us. All of you are included in this blessing because we are your hands and feet and nothing could have happened without you being lamps alight and shining with compassion for our people.
In the evening we had a thank-you meal with our Project Manager, Jawed Munawer, who was always discerning and ever faithful and trustful, going to and from the camp on our behalf for the past fourteen months. We are very grateful to him for his selfless giving.