Pakistan

From my Own Ghetto into a Space of Solidarity

By Louie Ybañez 

Louie Ybañez, a licensed architect by profession, is a seminarian of the Missionary Society of St Columban and is currently studying theology at Ateneo de Manila. He is from Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines.  He spent two years on First Mission Assignment in Pakistan from 2014 to 2016. Here are two articles he wrote, the first after returning to the Philippines and the second while still in Pakistan.


Louie (back row far right) with Asnawi Family, Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte

When I lived in Pakistan I was part of the 1.6 percent who are Christians in this predominantly Muslim country of an estimated 203 million people. In Pakistan many Muslims have hardly even met a Christian and certainly do not know anything about the Christian faith.  Nor are most of them even interested because it is not a major concern for nor does the Christian faith impinge on their daily lives. Prejudice among Muslims towards Christians and vice versa, is common because of the lack of willingness or even interest to engage with each other.

From ping-pong diplomacy to interfaith cricket relations

This story, datelined Karachi, Pakistan, first appeared in Sunday Examiner, the English-language weekly of the Diocese of Hong Kong, on 30 August this year.

Ping-pong diplomacy played a big role in thawing the ice during the communication freeze between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China back in 1971, but today, the governor of the Sindh in Pakistan, Ishratul Ebad Khan, is taking cricket beyond the frigid zone to cool sometimes overheated interfaith and inter-cultural relations by building healthy friendships through sport.

A keen cricketer himself and avid fan of the sport, Ishratul Ebad has thrown his support behind the upcoming game between a Vatican XI and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI to be played at ‘the St Peter’s Basilica’ of cricket, Lords Cricket Ground, in England, in September.

Pulong ng Editor


Shahbaz Bhatti شہبازبھٹی
(9 September 1968 – 2 March 2011)

‘I want to live for Christ and it is for Him that I want to die.’

The Church in the Philippines is engaged in a nine-year preparation for the celebration in 2021 of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 1521. The first year of that preparation was the Year of Faith, 2013, observed throughout the world at the initiative of Pope Benedict XVI. The bishops of the Philippines have declared 2014, the second year of preparation for the celebration in 2021, as the Year of the Laity in the country.

Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel (EG), calls each one of us to share that joy with others.

In EG 102 Pope Francis writes:‘Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society.’ 

Rattno's Story

By Fr Robert McCulloch

Fr McCulloch, an Australian, worked in Mindanao from 1971 till 1978 when he was assigned to Pakistan, a new mission for the Columbans. He spent 34 years in Pakistan and in 2012 was given that country’s highest civilian award for foreign nationals. He is now in Rome as the Procurator General of the Columbans.

Unlike three other children in his family, 12-year-old Rattno was lucky to survive in November 2012 when the shack their family called home burnt down. Rattno is a Hindu boy of the Parkari Koli tribal people in south-east Pakistan who are desperately poor, enslaved to feudal Muslim landlords, dispossessed, and who lost everything they had during the floods of 2010 and 2011.


Fr Robert McCulloch and hospital administrator James Francis talk about the involvement of the Missionary Society of St Columban in St Elizabeth Hospital.

Rattno's parents moved to Jhirruk, 40km south of Hyderabad, when they heard that St Elizabeth Hospital was building houses to re-house flood affected people. Although the hospital had constructed 820 houses in other places, only 30 could be built in Jhirruk until more funds became available.

Shahbaz Bhatti: 'I know what is the meaning of Cross'

By Fr Tomás King

Shahbaz Bhatti
Shahbaz Bhatti
(9 September 1968 – 2 March 2011)

Two years ago on 2 March Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and the only Christian member of the Cabinet in Pakistan, was assassinated in Islamabad just after he had left his mother’s house. Recently Fr Tomás King, Coordinator of the Columban Mission Unit in Pakistan, met Gerard Bhatti, a brother of Shahbaz, and wrote this article.

Grerard Bhatti

Shahbaz Bhatti was the youngest in a family one sister and five brothers. They were born in the Catholic village of Khuspur, near the city of Faisalabad in the Punjab. Khushpur means ‘Happy Land’. It was named after its founder, Father Felix, a Capuchin missionary, his name being the Latin for ‘happy’. The village was founded in 1900. It is one of 53 such villages founded throughout the country by various missionary congregations, mostly before the partition of 1947. The founding of these villages made a huge impact on the sense of dignity and self-worth of an oppressed group of people. Khushpur has produced two bishops and many priests and sisters. It is also the home of the National Catechists Training Centre.There are 300 families in the village.

Jaclyn, the only sister, was the first-born, followed by Paul, who was appointed Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs after the death of his brother, Peter, Gerard, Sikandar and Shahbaz, whose Christian name was Clement. The family owns four acres of land, now farmed by Sikandar. His mother is still alive while his father, Jacob, died only weeks before his martyrdom. Christian or ‘Western’ names were usually given by the missionaries. The two youngest children being given Sub-continent names maybe reflects the need to fit in as the country gradually became more Islamised.

Despite being implored to the contrary, in his 20s Shahbaz decided not to marry so as to devote his life to the struggle for human rights of the oppressed and for justice and peace, which was a very counter-cultural commitment to make.

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His only sister, a brother, nieces and a nephew speak about Shahbaz Bhatti.

Come and See Where I Lived

By Fr Daniel O’Connor


Fr O’Connor at the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem.

The author is from New Zealand and was ordained in 1986. This article first appeared in the newsletter of the Pakistan Mission Unit of the Columbans. For many years he has been a long-distance runner.

As part of my Silver Jubilee sabbatical year I spent some time last June 2012 in the Holy Land. Descending out of the dark sky into the lights of Tel Aviv was symbolic. The next day
excitement increased as I boarded a bus for Nazareth. Being an adventurous Columban I had a wonderful, humble privilege of walking along the places that Jesus walked, called ‘Hiking the Jesus Trail’ and ‘The Jesus Marathon’.

As I walked through the alleyways and steps of the old city of Nazareth I reminisced that this was where Jesus played, walked, laughed, shed tears and worked for the first 30 years of his life on earth. Seeing children of olive-colored skin playing soccer on the side of the street reminded me that Jesus would have looked like them and played with his friends in those areas and drawn water from ‘Mary’s Well’.

Learning Some of What I Don’t Know

By Siobhan McCaffrey

Pakistan Misyon Article
With some of the teachers from St Paul's High School in Greentown

Some Challenges and Possibilities in Collaborating with Teachers in Schools in Lahore, Pakistan, from the brief experience of a Northern Irish Primary School Teacher. The author wrote this article during her second visit to Pakistan. Her first visit, nearly a year earlier, was to visit the grave of her Columban uncle, Fr Pat McCaffrey. We published her account of that visit, Following in Father Pat’s footsteps in November-December 2012.

Pakistan Misyon Article
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore

My uncle, Fr Pat McCaffrey, a Columban missionary, died suddenly in Pakistan in May 2010. Along with my brother Niall, I came to Pakistan the following Christmas to visit his grave. I decided to return again in November 2011, so this is my second visit. This time, even though I speak no Urdu, I wanted to be more included in daily life so looked for the opportunity to work with teachers and children in local schools in a Columban parish in Lahore. I have been working in the schools for just over three weeks and the following attempts to describe and evaluate this experience.

I approached the principal of one of the parish schools and asked her how I might contribute. She asked me to explain the basics of English grammar to the teachers, and also work with some of the older classes in the school. So, I spent the first week preparing a one-day seminar on the topic for 30 teachers.

I had not prepared resources or equipment so initially presumed I would have to do everything with blackboard and chalk. However I discovered the school had a data projector and I was able to use the internet connection in the Columban house to download resources. The topic of the seminar was basic grammar, handwriting and phonics. In Ireland I only teach up to eight-year-olds so felt a little out of my depth preparing to work with older students, much less with teachers.

Following in Father Pat’s footsteps

By Siobhan McCaffrey

Fr Pat McCaffrey, from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, died suddenly in Pakistan on 18 May 2010. He had served first as a Columban missionary in Fiji before joining the pioneering group of Columbans that went to Pakistan in 1979. Later he spent some years in Britain, based in Bradford, where there are many people of Pakistani origin. He was involved with Muslims there and celebrated Mass regularly with Catholic Pakistanis. He returned to Fiji but was to spend his late years in Pakistan. Here his niece writes about her visit, with her brother Niall. This article was published in The Far East, the Columban magazine in Australia and New Zealand.

My uncle, Columban missionary Fr Patrick (Pat) McCaffrey, died in Pakistan on 18 May 2010. His sudden and untimely death meant that no family members from home in Ireland were able to attend his funeral. My brother Niall and I therefore decided to make a pilgrimage to Pakistan over Christmas 2010 to follow in our Uncle Pat’s footsteps.

We arrived at Karachi airport in the early hours of 19 December 2011 and were met by Columban Fr Tomás King. He was to be our host, driver, guide and interpreter, along with Annette Menzes, a good friend of Father Pat’s. We then travelled to the parish of Matli in the Sindh Province where Father Pat had ministered from 1984 to 1994. It was here that he had initiated a housing scheme for parishioners from outlying areas to build their homes on church land in the town. We visited many of these homes that ranged from sturdy brick constructions to basic one-room mud huts.

Minister Bhatti, you forgot one question in the interview. Your life is threatened by who and what sort of threats are you receiving?

The forces of violence, militant banned organizations, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda, they want to impose their radical philosophy on Pakistan. And whoever stands against their radical philosophy that threatens them, when I’m leading this campaign against the Sharia Law, for the abolishment of (the) Blasphemy Law, and speaking for the oppressed and marginalized, persecuted Christian and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me.

The Gospel Amid Uncertainty

Australian Columban Fr Robert McCulloch was ordained in 1970. He served in Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, from 1971 till 1974 before going to Rome and Washington DC for studies. He arrived in Pakistan early in January 1979 as a member of the first group of Columbans to go there. Among other things, Father McCulloch lectures at the Theological Institute in Karachi. Here he tells us how missionary work in Pakistan means serving the love of God in a climate of violence, poverty and injustice. 

I would not have been able to sustain myself in my work as a Columban missionary priest if I had looked for immediate results during my 29 years in Pakistan. Year by year, I have come to understand that the real issue is to serve for the love of God, not to look at what I have in my hand or what I can count.

Asking Real Questions

We face tough questions here: How do we continue with the ongoing formation and preparation of liturgical leaders while there is a famine affecting a third of the diocese? How do we plan when there is news of a church being burned down or a convent being attacked by a wild but well-organized mob with the connivance of police and approval of town authorities?

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