Support for the prison ministry in the diocese of Faisalabad
Life in a Pakistani prison is truly punishing. Torture is common-place, and the prison conditions are often appalling. The prison cells are tiny and overfilled, and a hundred prisoners often have to share a single toilet. Prisoners often die of heat stroke or heart attack, and dozens of prisoners die in custody every year.
For Christians the conditions are still worse than for their Muslim fellow prisoners. Given that even in “normal life” they are oppressed and discriminated against, it is hardly surprising that their conditions of imprisonment are still more precarious. Again, since most of the Christians are among the poorest in society, their families cannot afford to bribe their jailers, as others do. As a result, and unlike the Muslim prisoners, the Christian inmates almost never receive visitations from their relatives.
There are approximately 5,000 people in the prisons of Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan. Of these between 85 and 100 are Christian, most of whom have been imprisoned for relatively minor offences, such as drug possession, illegal trade in alcohol and other similar offences. Many of them would have already long since been released if they had been able to afford the fines imposed on them. But since they are too poor to pay the fines, they are left sitting in prison.
A great blessing for prisoners
Once a month, however, and on major holidays the authorities in Faisalabad do at least permit Catholic priests to enter the prisons and talk and pray with any inmates who wish to do so. This is a great blessing for the prisoners. The pastoral care provided by the Church benefits not only the prisoners themselves but also their family members – above all when the prisoner has been the sole breadwinner of his family. In such cases his imprisonment can inflict extreme poverty on his wife and children, and here too the priests do their best to ease the worst of the need. They also endeavour wherever possible to promote reconciliation between the families of the victims and those who have committed the offence.
ACN has supported this prison ministry in the past and will continue to do so this year with a contribution of $8,700 CAN.
Text : ACN international
Adapted by: Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada – firstname.lastname@example.org