Afghanistan: religious at the service of children, challenging every obstacle


Marco Guerra recorded the testimony of Sr Celina, Dominican Sister of St Catherine of Siena, who has been in Kabul since April, and was formerly Vice-President of the PBK Association.

The following link leads to the Vatican Radio interview (Text and Sound) ( Italian )

There is still high tension in Kabul after the massive Taleban offensive in the springtime and the attack on Embassy buildings last week that cost the lives of more than 30 people.  During the days of fighting, the work of the Catholic Inter-Congregational Centre for disabled children never stopped.  The sisters here, while not concealing their faith, have to leave off their religious habit for security reasons, and dress as Afghan women do. Marco Guerra recorded the testimony of Sr Celina, Dominican Sister of St Catherine of Siena, who is one of the animators of the enterprise.                                                                                                                                                                                             R. – Thanks be to God, the Lord truly protected us, because we were near the German Embassy ten minutes before the attack began. As we arrived back home we heard the first sounds of the shooting; the driver said immediately, “The Lord really loves you, Sisters!” We had been there and now they were beginning to fire guns.
D. –The violence of war, which repeatedly breaks out on the streets of the Afghan capital, is only one of the many difficulties that the religious of the PBK Centre have to face.
R. – As sisters, but above all, as women, here in Afghanistan we do not go out of the house unless there is something particular that has to be done, to buy something and come straight back.  For this reason, our relationships with the people are mainly those we have with the parents and families of the children who come here. .
D. – Let’s look back with Sr Celina, to understand how the project came about.
R. – The war had just ended, and, Pope John Paul II said in his 2001 Christmas message, “We have to do something for the children of Kabul”.  It was then that some religious who were part of the USMI organisation got together and in the course of a year, a year and a half, took the decision to set up a civil association, as we would never have been accepted as a religious institute. This is how the Association for the Children of Kabul came about. .
D. – Why was so much attention given to the disabled, right from the beginning?
R. – Caritas International suggested children suffering from the trauma of war, or who were psychologically and mentally retarded due to the fact that marriages in this country take place between those who are very closely related. We began to gather these children together, and help them, through physical and psychological stimulation, to learn to talk, to express themselves, to wash themselves – to become independent and look after themselves.
D. – And some years later, the PBK Centre has become one of the most solid foundations in the realm of humanitarian aid in the whole of Afghanistan…
R. – Six years later, the Centre is well recognised, and we are in direct contact with the Afghan Ministry of Education and the Ministry for Social Affairs.  Sisters of Divine Providence, the Blessed Cottolengo Sisters, are here, Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, and then two Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena. We took in four young girls who studied in our house during the Taleban period. At the very beginning there were eight children, then fifteen, and now we have 36. We do not aim to take more than 40.
D. – Something that is gently bringing about the fall of the wall of mistrust that separates the religious from the rest of the Afghan population..?
R. – The other day we went to buy vegetables. A man came into the shop and asked the proprietor, “Who are these women?” The proprietor replied, “They are foreigners who have come here to take our children, those who cannot speak, those who are kept shut up in the house, and help them to speak and move themselves about and make relationships with each other. They are doing a great work”. This gave me the greatest joy, because after all these years we realised that here was a little hope, this was a testimony.




Filed in: Generale

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