Our history

These few lines contain the courageous story of an inter-congregational mission in Afghanistan, launched, administered and carried out by religious drawn from different religious Institutes. It is the story, not of human work but of God’s work, of the Lord’s help for those who trust in him and in his Divine Providence.

We recall the stages of this story to give the work new vigour, and help us rediscover the initial reasons for the original enthusiasm.

“Save the children of Kabul!”… was the distressed cry of John-Paul II in his Christmas message of 2001. In response, Father Giancarlo Pravettoni, of the Opera Don Guanello, stimulated a natural inclination to solidarity between the CISM (Conference of Italian Major Superiors – men) and USMI (Union of Italian Major Superiors – women), and succeeded in involving several religious families which were particularly sensitive to humanitarian causes and already engaged in helping minors. They were co-involved in the courageous project of opening a refuge for the most unfortunate children of Kabul, the disabled; a refuge to be supported and run by religious.

On 7 April 2004, the Charitable Association “Pro Bambini di Kabul” (PBK) was set up by fourteen Congregations.

Meetings were held with various International organisations, especially with Caritas Italy, and they suggested a work for children with mental handicaps, a field of assistance not seriously considered in that country.

On 22 May 2006, the Day Centre for children with mental disabilities was inaugurated, children who are strongly discriminated against and even hidden away in their homes out of a mistaken sense of family shame and guilt.

The long-desired Mission had begun. For the sisters, the opening of the Centre meant sharing and demonstrating the good news that God loves all his creatures, without discrimination, whatever their race, colour, religion, or physical or mental ability.

This is the message they proclaimed through the Centre to a society torn by prejudice and violence. The PBK Project was a “living seed” that had slowly come to sudden growth.

The PBK Day Centre for children with non-serious mental disabilities is a small enterprise that can receive only 40 children, but for families and children who are so sorely tried in this tormented city, it is becoming a beacon of light and hope. News of it has spread beyond all expectations, and the U.N. has interested three foreign Universities: the Gallaudet University of Manchester (USA), the University of Oslo and the University of Stockholm, which, together with the Kabul Education University, are organising courses at the PBK Centre and the UNESCO headquarters for teachers who are interested in working and caring for the handicapped.

The latest piece of good news comes from the USA. Sr Joyce Meyer, Executive Director of the Hilton Fund for Sisters, a wealthy foundation which provides economic support for religious working for the most disadvantaged in the world’s poorest countries, visited the sisters in Kabul to find out what their needs are and to give them support.

The roots and the driving force for this re-birth which is taking place in the midst of the most disastrous ruin is a community of a few consecrated women who have pooled their charity and their charisms and, almost without willing it, or knowing it, have revealed the astonishing strength of women’s religious life even in the most tragic and dangerous of places.

Education is a wave that begins from the centre (which is the child) and spreads out to wider realities in proportion to the strength and intensity of the original impulse. The first of these realities is, of course, the child’s parents, the second is the state schools of Afghanistan and the third (totally unexpected) is the Afghan Ministry of Education

PBK: CHARITY’S “COURT OF THE GENTILES”: HOPES AND PLANS

We often hear exhortations, or read that religious in the complex world of today should overcome every temptation to isolationism and every illusion of self-sufficiency, and adopt the strategy of working together, putting in common their information and prophetic intuitions, and collaborating to bring about common initiatives. Well, the PBK experience is the fruit of successful inter-congregational collaboration.

The PBK Educational Day Centre in the years since 2004 has become charity’s “Court of the Gentiles”. Pope Benedict, when he asked that even today a “Court of the Gentiles” should be created, was referring to a people composed of those far-off, of seekers of infinity, of the curious, or even the disappointed, because they too come to God, “at least as the Unknown God”.

Just as this Court is a place that is not yet confessional, not yet liturgical, not yet ecclesiastical, yet is, in a certain sense, a religious place, because it has the conditions for a preliminary encounter with God, so the charity which is expressed every day by the community of our sisters at Kabul, doing admirable work with mentally disabled children, is becoming a sacred place, or at least an entrance-hall where Christ, Love Incarnate, can be met.  A small “Court of the Gentiles”, because the Day Centre is small-sized, but as great as the world, because it is built of the courage of men and women religious who have left the safe encampment of their Institute, and gone out to meet all people of good will, certain that love is the only language capable of sustaining the dialogue of life at whatever level, and with whatever culture, religion or race.

At Kabul we are only a seed, but like all seeds planted by God, we are certain that it will become a great tree. There we are only a grain of hope, but like all seeds we are growing in God’s silence; a silence that is active and rich in love for those who have need of material care but most of all of being sincerely loved, with that love which only the Risen One can put into the human heart.

There we are only a small work, but possibly a “model” of a new development, of a humanity open to Christian values: a human nature of solidarity, equality, social justice and fraternity.

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