On September 29, 2010, a sunny but cool morning. the Apostolic Carmel sisters and I joined with the caravan of the bishop of Multan, Pakistan, Bishop Andrew Francis and Caritas Pakistan, Multan.
We started our journey at 09:15 AM to one of the small villages of the Diocese of Multan called Waran Sehran, Teh. Karor, Distt. Layyah, Punjab, Pakistan. The Sisters brought their relief goods. At about 3:30PM, upon our arrival, I saw the relief goods brought by the Caritas as well. It was a long journey of approximately five hours. The roads were smooth at times; but some other times, flood waters eroded some roads. The dust, which is nothing new for the Pakistanis, was simply filling up our nostrils and eyes. The journey was humpy and dumpy. We took some photographs on our way while sitting inside the van. There was a certain fear that the people might rob us of our relief goods. Thanks to the police who accompanied us.
I saw around three hundred men sitting on the ground and others standing, all under the scorching heat of the sun. All were Muslims. The calamities and natural disasters know no religion, race or nation. All were waiting for the boxes piled in front of their eyes but on which they had no control. And perhaps each must have wished to bring all with him to fulfil the needs of his family. Once macho men were so vulnerable now. In his message to the people, the bishop assured the help of the church to the suffering people. It is an opportunity to bring the good news to the downtrodden, he added. Our presence is indeed a message of hope and strength.
On the other side of the community building, more than 200 women, sitting, some standing and some squatting, were waiting for the relief goods. Each face has his/her own story to tell. The rigours of life were obvious on the old faces which told their own misery. The distribution was, of course, not enough and needed more organizational setup.
Some got the packages of flour, other cooking stuff, milk and clean water. And some only a pack of milk and bottled clean water. I looked at the faces of those frustrated women; they were looking for food, medicines, rehabilitation of their houses. The cry for help was obvious from the eyes of the old women. The flood became the flood of misery.
In this turmoil, hopelessness and frustration, it is not difficult either for one to find some ray of hope in the smiling faces of small girls and boys whose education was disrupted. Their smile, seemingly, was an invitation and appeal for the help for their education. They seem to say they want to go back to school no matter what.
Mushtaq Anjum, MI