Khushpur is the largest Catholic village in all Pakistan; it is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “Pakistani Vatican.” Some 25 miles south of Faisalabad, it was first established in 1902 by Belgian missionaries. At that time there was absolutely nothing here: no medical care, not even any roads – to say nothing of electricity or telephone communications. The area was teeming with snakes.
Yet, over the course of time, this place, with its almost 8,000 Catholics and its extraordinarily active Church life, has become the backbone of the Catholic Church in Pakistan. To date, the Catholic community here has produced no fewer than two bishops, 35 priests, 100 religious Sisters and a number of religious brothers. There is one school, one church and one Dominican convent.
Khushpur was also home to Shahbaz Bhatti. A 42-year-old Catholic Minister for Minorities, he was murdered on March 2, 2011. He was in his car on his way to work when he was ambushed by masked men and cut down by machine gun fire. It was in revenge for his efforts to oppose the notorious blasphemy laws in Pakistan. His killing was later claimed by a group close to the Taliban.
He is now buried in his home town and rose petal are still scattered over his grave to this day. Just three weeks after his murder, the Pakistani bishops’ conference officially applied to the Vatican to have him included on the list of Martyrs of the Universal Church. In the very last interview he gave, Minister Bhatti had described his commitment as a “witness for Christ.”
Also in Khushpur, since 1952, is the National Training Center for Catechists, which is supported by ACN. Since 1965 it has been run by the De La Salle Brothers. To date, more than 900 catechists have completed their training here, and at the present time there are 42 men still undergoing their three-year training. They come from all over Pakistan, and after graduating they will return to their home dioceses and serve the Church there. Given the vast size of so many of the parishes in Pakistan, which often comprise several different and often widely scattered villages, the catechists can play a vital role in the transmission of the Faith. They help the priests who are too thinly spread and cannot possibly be everywhere at once.
Despite its importance for the Catholic Church in Pakistan, the village of Khushpur is remote and difficult to access and still suffers from the poor infrastructure. As a result, a car is essential for many reasons, including transporting catechists to the doctor or to hospital in the event of sickness or accident, obtaining vital supplies, and of course taking the catechists as part of their training to the various local parishes, where they complete the practical part of their studies. The ancient and rundown vehicle currently used by the center is a permanent drain on costs, as it uses a lot of fuel and is in constant need of repairs.
Brother Sajid Basir, the director of the center, has turned to us for help. We have promised him $13,700. Will you now help him purchase a car for this National Catechists’ Training Center in Pakistan?
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