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Sister Katharina Toshiko LSJ
The author,wearing glasses in the above photo, a member of the
Little Sisters of Jesus, is from Japan and has been in Afghanistan
for many years. There are around 1,300 Little Sisters from 67
nationalities living in about 70 countries around the world, including the
Philippines. ‘In keeping with the inspiration of our foundation we
maintain a large number of communities among Muslim peoples in various
countries around the world and daily pray for all the people of Islam’.
‘Even if one isn’t able to do a great deal, it is worth while becoming a part of the scenery: one is so approachable and so “very small”’. (Blessed Charles
de Foucauld, 1907).
Here in Kabul the Fraternity of the Little Sisters of Jesus has been present for more than 50 years. One of the Sisters who started this Fraternity is still living here. During this time the government has changed many times – we’ve had a monarchy, Communism, extreme Islamism and now moderate Islamism. Due to the changes of government our life has been disturbed. We were obliged to move to other areas and even to escape to another town. During the war years we continued to work as nurses, as we had always done.
Two of us work in government hospitals as staff nurses. The work of a nurse is not very highly regarded here. Links of friendship with colleagues from the time we began to work still remain. We often have beautiful relationships with their families too. If you are friends, people here say ‘we share bread and salt’.
Above all, after 23 years of war and the sharing of suffering and joy with our friends and colleagues, friendships have become very strong. It is also a fact that the Afghan people have a very deep faith, which helps us to deepen our own faith. Our friends are still poor. However, one thing has changed for the better in recent years: the children can now go to school, even children from very poor families who make a living by begging.
At our Fraternity we have visitors nearly every day, either to ask for something, to share some news or to talk about their health problems. Often we have a good time together. This requires an effort on our part, especially when people come one after the other when we are just home from work. We don’t actually do ‘anything important’ for our visitors. We only share the joys and sufferings of ordinary life . . . It is, as Blessed Charles said, ‘worth while becoming a part of the scenery’. Our neighbors are all Muslim. They know that our life is consecrated to God and they have confidence in us. As our foundress, Little Sister Magdeleine, said clearly, ‘We are little sisters of no importance at all’. We have been able stay in Afghanistan under different regimes, and moreover in a country that is completely Muslim. We’re not an NGO, nor a health organization. We are living among the Afghan people, trying to be ‘so approachable and so “very small”’, as Blessed Charles said.
So we put our hope in God and abandon ourselves to Him. Without Him, we couldn’t live here and we also wouldn’t have a reason to live any more. Our friends and our colleagues at work know that we are Christians and nuns. But people who do not know us often ask why we don’t convert to Islam and why we’re not married in order to have children. Yet, as Afghans are open-minded, they accept us as we are. It must be said that we and the Afghan people believe that God is one, unique and merciful. Because of this, we are very close to one another. We have confidence in and respect for one another. None of these are ‘great things’ but they are what the Lord asks of us in this country. They constitute what Little Sister Magdaleine said: ‘true friendship, freely given . . .’
www.rc.net/org/littlesisters with links to many sites related to Blessed Charles de Foucauld. www.jesuscaritas.info/lsj/lsj0.shtm will also bring to you pages about the Little Sisters of Jesus while www.gratefulness.org/giftpeople/SisterMagdeleine.htm is a brief biography of Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus (1898-1989), foundress of the congregation, by Robert Ellsberg, taken from his book All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses From Our Time.