Working among the Disadvantaged in Pakistan

Working among the Disadvantaged in Pakistan

Fr Nico Schipper mhm

Fr Nico Schipper is a Mill Hill missionary in the diocese of Hyderabad, South-East Pakistan.
He lives and works among the marginalised poor, those who are ranked lowest in the Hindu caste system. Even though Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country the Hindu caste mentality still largely governs social stratification. Most Christians belong to the lowest ranking category in the Hindu caste system. They are considered to be unclean and inferior. Traditionally more than 90% of these Christians find employment in the lowliest of occupations, as sweepers and cleaners of toilets, sewage etc. They are ranked at the very bottom of the social scale. Fortunately, through improved schooling, quite a number of Christians have found more dignified work. But the type of work you do has no influence on the social pecking order.

Some Christians belong to specific ethnic minorities. They are often landless peasants working under terrible conditions as bonded labourers on the estates of wealthy landowners. Their condition is not unlike the serfdom of medieval Europe.

‘I am pastorally active among the latter group. They are widely scattered over the countryside, some live as far as 50 km from our church. That is why we (pastoral team) go and visit them at home to foster good relations, for purposes of catechesis and to celebrate the Eucharist. We focus on community building. We try to bring together people who traditionally do not associate with each other. We aim to break down the walls of separation inherent in the caste system.

The parish also provides education and health care. We run two primary schools and a tuberculosis and maternity clinic.

‘The Church is also active in the field of human rights. For the faithful here the Church has a liberating capacity, because all are treated as equals. In my dealings with people I strive to foster gospel values such as openness, mutual respect and appreciation of other people’s culture and tradition, solidarity and the common good. To be a Christian for me involves abandoning the ‘us vs them’ mentality. My dream is that people in Pakistan transcend the caste mentality and come to treat each other as equals.

Fr Nico Schipper mhm (translated from WNM Nieuwsbrief – Dutch)

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