Christians are viewed as second-class citizens in Pakistan. Insulted, discriminated against, oppressed, they are rarely given the opportunity to advance socially. Most Christians have to eke out a living in the most poorly paid jobs, often working as day labourers, in the brickworks, as road sweepers, garbage collectors, rickshaw drivers or domestic staff and generally living from hand to mouth.
The coronavirus pandemic has only made their situation worse. Many have lost their jobs as a result of the lockdown and have no savings to tide them over. It is true, of course, that many Muslims also find themselves in a similar situation; however, they can count on the support of local NGOs. On the other hand, non-Muslims are often refused help of any kind.
The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Pakistan. In the second half of June there were over 1,000 new infections daily, not counting the unreported cases. As of August 19, 2020, there were 290,445 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 deaths related to the disease.
ACN therefore launched an emergency aid programme to the tune of $217,500 during the course of the lockdown in the dioceses of Faisalabad, Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Lahore. Food has been provided to 5,000, mostly Christian, needy families. Priests and catechists were also provided with protective equipment such as masks and sanitizer, so that they can continue to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the faithful. Since many of these people have no access to the Internet, an information programme about COVID-19 has also been launched via local radio and printed leaflets, informing people on how to protect themselves against infection. Scholarships will also allow students from some of the neediest families to continue their studies after the lockdown, even though their parents no longer have an income.
Aneel Mushtaq, the Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan, ACN’s partner in this project, told us “The aid you have provided through ACN has helped to save many people from starvation. Many people had absolutely nothing to put on the table to feed their families and were in a terrible situation.”
May God reward all those who offered to help