Bishop of Multan has expressed serious concerns over militants’ influence over the unity and dialogue in the Southern Punjab. Bishop Benny Travas, mourned over the deteriorating situation of unison, owing to the ongoing religious militancy. “The small Catholic community in the south of Punjab province lives communion and promotes dialogue in a society where the influence of Islamic militants and violent groups is felt,” he said.
While further delineating the situation he explained that the situation has worsened in the city of Rahim Yar Khan “the security situation is critical, given that extremist groups have established their bases in South Punjab and set up their madrassas that spread an ideology of hatred.” He pointed out towards several religious extremist groups nestled in the area, and said that the security measures have been beefed up for the churches and Christians’ schools by the provincial government.
“All churches, schools and even small chapels must equip themselves with surrounding walls, cameras, turrets, guards and all these expenses must be paid by us. We did it for the Cathedral, but it is difficult to do it for every chapel: we cannot sustain the costs. If we cannot manage, unfortunately, the alternative is to close the churches.”
He disclosed an incident when “a Protestant pastor was arrested for violation of that ordinance and its hall of worship was closed because it did not meet the requirements imposed by the government.” Additionally, “all foreign missionaries have gone, and moved to other areas of the country, since their pastoral work had become almost impossible, linked to the mandatory presence of an armed escort. For a priest or a nun who visited the sick and families, this is a real pain,” he reveled.
Bishop Travas went on to explain that the diocesan community has been paying a pivotal in education and health sectors. He explained that “Gah Umeed” (Place of Hope) – a diocesan run institute in Multan is instrumental in this regard.
“It is a nursing and rehabilitation home for disabled children, where families of all religions bring their children, who make tremendous progress: many of them learn to walk. Muslim families are very happy and appreciate this service: so, on the basis of gratitude, dialogue of life is established which builds good relationships.
Our street is living the Gospel with actions, with Christian witness more than words. The pastoral plan of the diocese, which is also my episcopal motto is to ‘build communion’ with all, in a diocesan territory made up mostly of small rural villages inhabited by farmers.”