Fr Jimmy Lindero MHM talks about the history and reality of life for the Kutchi Kohli people in Pakistan.
The Kutchi Kohli people belong to one of the indigenous ethnic minorities of Hindu background in Pakistan. The government calls them ‘Scheduled Castes’ which really means outcasts or untouchables. Economically, they are very poor. Most of them are landless farmers who work for feudal landowners. They earn extremely low wages and landowners manipulate them and take advantage of their lack of education. So the Kutchi Kohli people are often caught in a debilitating cycle of debt.
A God who shares unconditional love
In the late 1970s, the Mill Hill Missionaries responded to the invitation of the Bishop of Hyderabad, to work with minorities in Sindh. There’s a big population of Kutchi Kohlis living around Tando Allahyar. So the Mill Hill Missionaries chose made this the centre of this apostolate.
The Kohli people often live in constant fear. They fear their landlords and the majority and dominant populace. They fear for the security of their women and girls. And they fear the Hindu deities who are believed to be quick to inflict calamities and sickness on disobedient devotees. But in Jesus, they see a God who shares their joys and sorrows and freely offers them unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness.
Mill Hill Missionaries work around the world to bring Christ’s love to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people. Please help us continue to reach those sisters and brothers who need help the most>>
Creating opportunities for children
Our pastoral team focuses on the faith formation of the laity and empowering the potential parish lay leaders. We strive to promote peace and justice, interfaith dialogue, and integral development of the Kutchi Kohli people. We do this through formal and non-formal education, medical outreach, community building, empowering women and livelihood projects.
Central to the missionary activity of the parish are the boarding houses for Kutchi Kohli girls and boys. On average, there are around 50 boys and 40 girls benefiting from the care and education they provide. One of the challenges we face is convincing parents to send their girls to study; many only prioritise educate their boys. So we have a policy that we will only accept boys if their sisters also receive an education, to ensure equal opportunities for these children. The parish has one main school in Tando Allahyar and several satellite schools in the villages which are all run by the Presentation Sisters.
We conduct a ‘Village Children’ programme on an annual basis. We invite children from the villages to the parish centre for three days of catechesis, prayers, games, and health and hygiene lessons. Around 300 children participate each year.
A new church for the Kutchi Kohli
Our parish pastoral team visits over 900 families scattered in more than 400 villages across an area of roughly 60 kilometres. So it involves a lot of travelling and overnight stays in the villages. And the Kutchi Kohli Christians are a minority within their Hindu community; their faith is young and fragile. They face discrimination and their own Hindu relatives or fellow villagers often pressure them to renounce their Christianity. So regular home visitation is a pastoral priority of our parish team, to support and help people.
But numbers of the Kutchi Kohli Catholics are increasing. And soon we found we needed a bigger church building for daily and Sunday Masses, and for other community prayers. We presented a concept to the faithful and the parish community agreed to support this project. They began fundraising for the new church building almost immediately.
Even Hindu friends and contacts contributed to this project, saying in Gujarati, ‘Isu Parbhu haro’, which translates to ‘For the Lord Jesus’.
Bishop Max J. Rodrigues officially opened and blessed the new church on the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, our parish patron saint. 17 adults received the Sacrament of Confirmation that day. Before the final blessing, the parish priest thanked both local and international benefactors. This included Missio’s APF and Mill Hill supporters. You contributed towards the construction of this new ‘house of prayer’ through the Red Box.
Your support makes this work possible
We are so grateful for the missionary efforts of the early missionaries, both religious and lay, who have laid the foundation of this apostolate. And to the many people whose names we don’t know but who sent their prayers and sacrifices through our mission partners, we say thank you!
In England and Wales, the Mill Hill Missionaries work with Missio through the Red Box to support faith communities and share the Gospel throughout the world. Please help us continue this vital work.