Wednesday, 25 June 2003

New Delhi (Fides Service) – The Jesuit Fathers hope soon to work in Afghanistan. The war ravaged country is undergoing a long process of consolidating political institutions, economic reconstruction, social harmonisation. It is from India that the followers of Saint Ignatius Loyola are considering mission in Afghanistan, a mainly Muslim country. Fides Service spoke on the matter with Father Lisbert D’ Souza, Jesuit Provincial of India where there are 3,800 Jesuits. Father D’Souza is also President of the Jesuits’ South Asia Assistancy, which includes Nepal and Sri Lanka.
After a fact finding mission in February this year the Jesuits approached the Afghan government, Father D’Souza explains: “We were welcomed warmly. We had feared some diffidence in this Muslim country in which our desire to serve might be seen as proselytism, but it was not. The highly appreciated work of Catholics in Afghanistan, such as Caritas for example, has paved the way for our mission. The Afghan minister of education welcomed the idea of a Jesuit presence to contribute to the cultural and human development of the people”.
The Jesuits will focus on education. Afghanistan has no school system except for Schools for the study of the Koran. It will be necessary to find qualified teachers, supply books, plan a school curriculum to provide children and adults with basic modern education. The Jesuits plan to work in collaboration with local associations and NGOs present in the country.
In July a delegation of four Fathers, led by Father Lawrence Fonseca, will visit Afghanistan to see how the Jesuit community can be established. The delegation will stay long enough to examine all the problems and difficulties to be discussed and settled including personnel and funds.
“All being well, we hope to start in October” Fr D’Souza tells Fides Service. “We are encouraged by the attitude of both the civil authorities and the people in the western region of the country” where the Jesuits hope to open their first mission. In this area there are about one million Dari-speaking tribal people who have no hope for modern education. Dari and Pashtun are the two main languages of Afghanistan.
Since the fall of the Taliban and the end of the US led war in 2001, on 16 May 2002 the Church established its first Mission sui iuris in Afghanistan, with Barnabite Father Giuseppe Moretti. There is a group of Barnabite Fathers from Pakistan in Kabul, mainly involved in humanitarian and hospital work . There is also a small community of Little Sisters of Jesus who were there even when the country was under Taliban fundamentalist rule. PA (Fides Service 25/6/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)