Afghanistan’s last Sisters remain despite risks

Robaird O’Cearbhaill
Hong Kong correspondent

 Only two sisters remain in Kabul, no brothers or priests stayed in the country. The two Catholics take care of a mentally disabled children’s day center and school, living in a dangerous district by choice, to be nearer to the people. “We have many friends here and the rest we rely on God,” Sister Shahnaz told AsiaNews

Their pupils come from neighborhoods “where not a day goes by without an explosion. Despite the risks we chose not to settle in the safer green zone because we wanted to live among ordinary people.”

Her colleague, Sister Teresia said “Our aim is to develop their potential and, where possible, allow them to be included in the education system.” As the kids’ parents are very poor, their center provides a way to take care of the children. “In Afghanistan, children are often traumatized in the womb, and it is not uncommon for them to be born with problems, malformations or some form of disabilities.” 

Sister Teresia Crasta, from India, is part of the Institute of the Child Mary, and Sister Shahnaz Bhatti is a Sister of Charity of St Joan (aka Jeanne) of Antida, is Pakistani, according to Aleteia. Their center is from the  Italian association Pro Bambini di Kabul (PBK) (For the Children of Kabul) headquartered in Rome. The association was founded in 2004, inspired   by Pope John Paul II’s call to save the children of Kabul. 

The center looks after 50 children from the age of six to twelve, who have learning delays and are afflicted with Down’s syndrome. The nuns hope to reach 60 pupils. They are expecting another Sister to join them. Another project is scholarships for young women who can contribute to society’s development.  

As Christians, the two are not allowed to profess their religion in public. However, unlike local Christians who are secretive about the Church, they are not secretive about their faith: “Everyone knows we are Christians. They respect us and appreciate the way we welcome anyone in need.” 

At the PBK website the objectives of the centre are laid out in detail:  “Welcome children with developmental delays…develop their autonomy: intellectual, motor-sensory, relational, communication and social skills through basic training.” Parental guidance is given, too. “Support families to improve the daily life of children through a better relationship between child parents, a better knowledge of the diseases and rehabilitation.”

   The center offers other services such as: “Transport of children, welcome clean serene environment, basic education (reading writing and counting) drawing and music.” Also there is “physical education, good nutrition” and “free and guided play”. (Photo by AsiaNews)