Mass Offerings for priests in Quetta
Since 1948, a conflict has been dragging on in the state of Balochistan between the Pakistani government and rebel groups who are fighting for the autonomy of this province situated in Pakistan’s southwest region.
Supported the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, Baloch rebels are demanding an independent Balochistan causing ordinary people to live in a constant state of fear. In some areas, every building has a separate rear exit as a means of escaping violence.
As the largest province in Pakistan, with an area of around 136,000 square miles (347,188 km²), Balochistan is almost the size of Germany and covers almost half of Pakistan‘s entire territory. At the same time, Balochistan is the most sparsely populated province in the country, with just 8 million people. Some 30,000 are Catholics, half of them live in the provincial capital of Quetta, the rest are thinly scattered across the entire region.
Working in the midst of violence
In Quetta itself, there are numerous checkpoints. In many areas of the city, you can only travel with a special permit, which must be requested several days in advance. Even the bishop cannot travel freely and is subject to constant police checks. His cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, is in the same area as an army barracks. Which means that a special permit is required to enter. That means that in many cases, the Catholic faithful are not able to attend Holy Mass. Bishop Victor Gnanapragasam himself requires a special permit in order to gain access to his own cathedral and has to call the authorities in advance every time and request permission. He is stopped repeatedly and searched by security forces at the checkpoints.
For these priests, none of whom belong to the Baloch ethnic group, the situation is becoming increasingly difficult. At one time they could travel anywhere, but today the parameter area within which they can move freely is becoming ever smaller. Because of the fighting between rebels and government forces, many places are completely off-limits. “As soon as the fighting stops, we endeavour to visit our Catholic faithful,” says the bishop. “In doing so, however, we risk being killed by landmines and rocket propelled grenades. It saddens us greatly that we cannot visit the people more frequently.”
The Mass Offerings you give ACN are of huge help to the bishop and his five priests in Quetta. We were able to send them Masses to a total value of $15,150. These Masses will be celebrated for the intentions of our kind benefactors. Thee offerings you have made will help them carry out their ministry in these difficult and dangerous circumstances.
But part of the reason the priests cannot regularly visit many places is also due to the vast distances. Some Christian communities live as much as 800 or even 1000 km from Quetta, which of course means that every journey is very expensive too. The fact that many of the Catholic faithful live scattered across this vast area of the province in very small communities is a major difficulty for them. In one town there may be perhaps three families, in another just one, in another perhaps four, making it extremely hard to establish any kind of regular Church life.
Thank you !
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