.- The Missionaries of Charity have launched a new professional training program for girls in Tajikistan, a predominantly Muslim country.
The sisters set up a small room with sewing machines and began offering courses in basic sewing, knitting, stitching and embroidery on Oct. 20. To date, 11 Muslim girls, aged 15 to 18, have registered for the course, offered in the sisters’ residence on Mondays and Tuesdays in Dushanbe, the capital city.
"We wanted to start these courses for Catholic girls, but we realized most study in school and wouldn't have enough time to attend our lessons," Sr. Lamola told UCA News. So they decided to give Muslim girls who live in the area the chance to learn, she explained. The nuns speak Russian, while the girls speak Tajik and a little Russian.
"Muslim girls need this service much more than Christians, because their parents usually don't allow them to finish school," the Indian missioner told UCA News. "They want them to marry." As a result, these girls rarely have professions and typically get married between 19 and 21. The young women reportedly attend the classes with great joy.
The focus of the course is on practical help. "We can't pray or talk about Jesus during classes, because the girls would leave us, or their parents would forbid them to come. But by this service and by our life we can show the love of Christ for all," Sr. Lamola said.
There are four Missionaries of Charity community in Tajikistan — two from India, one from Poland and one from Kenya. Their main ministry has been to the elderly, providing free food through a soup kitchen, medicine and help with household chores during home visits.
Five Incarnate Word priests serve the 250 Tajik Catholics in three parishes. Three Servants of the Lord and Holy Virgin of Matara nuns, also part of the Incarnate Word family, based in Argentina, help with youth ministry and other parish work in Dushanbe.