Harmony Amidst Diversity: An experience of a Maltese couple living and sharing ‘hope’ in Pakistan

Our experience in Pakistan was a transformative journey that unfolded over a span of two years. It was a casual conversation over a philosophical discussion between Roderick and Br Augusteen that kick-started the idea of us visiting Lahore, Pakistan and the MSSP missionaries there. Since I work in the educational field and Roderick works with voluntary organisations, it was a natural decision for us to collaborate with Fr Gerard and Fr Pierre in their mission in Pakistan that runs the Joseph DePiro High School for boys.

During Fr Pierre’s visit to Malta and Fr Gerard’s holiday period in 2022 we met up and discussed about a possible collaboration project that could take place in August 2023. Following several face-to-face meetings and online meetings, the project took shape and work started in the early months of 2023 before our visit in August.

Arriving in Pakistan, we were immediately struck by the diversity of this nation, not only in terms of its landscapes but also in its people’s backgrounds and beliefs. Our purpose for the visit was clear: to foster understanding, provide aid and share our knowledge and experiences with all the people we were to encounter.

During our experience in Pakistan, we encountered a rich tapestry of cultures, faiths, and traditions. One of the most striking aspects of our time in Pakistan was the unwavering warmth and hospitality of the local people, which was truly remarkable, as they welcomed us into their communities, into their homes and hearts. Despite the cultural differences that separated us, we were continually amazed at how readily they welcomed us. It was also a challenging journey as we worked diligently to bridge cultural gaps and foster understanding. However, there was genuine curiosity about our visit and a sincere desire to engage in dialogue, allowing us to build bridges of understanding.

It would remiss not to acknowledge the challenges that the missionaries who have been of service to this population for decades. Pakistan’s religious landscape is incredibly diverse, with a predominantly Muslim population. Navigating the sensitiveness and complexities of interfaith dialogue require a delicate touch. Fr Gerard and Fr Pierre, approach their mission with respect for the local customs and traditions while remaining steadfast in their commitment to the Catholic faith.

Our experience primarily focused on providing pedagogical training for the teachers in two schools in Asif Town 2 in Lahore. One school is run by the MSSP, Joseph De Piro High School for boys and the other is run by the Dominican Sisters, Sacred Heart High School for girls.  Also, upon Fr Gerard’s request, the school needed a library, a media room, and a new water filtration system to which, together with other local foundations, we contributed financially for these to be set up.

This experience allowed us to connect closely with the local people on a deeper level. Through our training and providing the resources, we hope to not only improve the lives of the teachers and students in the schools, but also create opportunities for more future meaningful interactions. We plan to continue with our collaboration with both schools through educational programmes. We wish to empower the people we work with through knowledge and skills, fostering a sense of hope for a brighter future.

Despite the differences in culture, practices and in some instances religious beliefs, we found common ground in our shared humanity and a desire for growth, peace, and prosperity.

This experience was a journey of discovery, connection, and growth. It taught us that faith and love are universal languages that can transcend even the most significant cultural and religious divides. It reaffirmed our belief in the transformative power of empathy and compassion, leaving an indelible mark on our lives and inspiring us to continue with similar experiences of fostering understanding and goodwill wherever we go.

This project was funded by the generous donations of Fondazzjoni U, HSBC Foundation and Marie Midolo Foundation, together with several individuals who also helped to finance the project through the New Beginnings Foundation. We are grateful to all.

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