Life in a Pakistani prison is an ordeal. Torture is commonplace, and prison conditions are often appalling. Cells are tiny and overcrowded, and a hundred prisoners often share a single toilet. Prisoners die of heat stroke or heart attack, and dozens of prisoners die in custody every year.
For Christians, the conditions are worse than for their Muslim fellow prisoners. Given that even in “normal life” they are oppressed and discriminated against, it is hardly surprising that their conditions of imprisonment are even more precarious. Since most of the Christians are among the poorest in society, their families cannot afford to bribe their jailers as others do. As a result, unlike the Muslim prisoners, the Christian inmates almost never get visits from their relatives.
There are some 5,000 people in the prisons of Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan. Of these, between 85 and 100 are Christians, most of whom have been imprisoned for relatively minor offences, such as drug possession, illegal trade in alcohol, and other similar offenses. Many of them would have long since been released if they had been able to afford the fines imposed on them. But since they are too poor to pay the fines, they are left sitting in prison.
Once a month and on major holidays, the authorities in Faisalabad do permit Catholic priests to enter the prisons and talk and pray with any inmates who wish to do so. This is a great blessing for the prisoners. But the pastoral care provided by the Church benefits not only the prisoners themselves but also their family members – especially when the prisoner has been the sole breadwinner of his family. In such cases, his imprisonment can inflict extreme poverty on his wife and children, and the priests do their best to ease the worst of the need. The priests also endeavor wherever possible to promote reconciliation between the families of the victims and those who have committed the offense.
ACN has supported this prison ministry in the past and will continue to do so this year with a contribution of $6,500. Will you give to help us fund prison ministry in Pakistan?
Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.