Pakistani Church leaders call for help for flood victims amid national emergency

pakistan floods A woman carrying a child walks along a street during a heavy rainfall in the flood-hit Dera Allah Yar town in Jaffarabad district, Balochistan province, Pakistan, on Aug. 30, 2022. Aid efforts ramped up across flooded Pakistan to help tens of millions of people affected by relentless monsoon rains that have submerged a third of the country and claimed more than 1,100 lives. | Photo by FIDA HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Protestant and Catholic Church leaders across Pakistan appealed for help for flood victims in that country, where the government has declared a national emergency.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, about one third of Pakistan is underwater. Residential areas are submerged and people have lost their homes, livestock, and belongings. While mostly rural areas have been affected, urban areas are also facing challenges — the infrastructure has been destroyed in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. 

More than 1,100 people have been killed, and more than 33 million people have been displaced or affected in some way since June. Pakistan’s Federal Flood Commission has declared the floods to be worse than those that affected the country in 2010.

Church leaders have appealed to local communities and the international community for help. Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, appealed to the Christian community to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are suffering from the floods.

“People are facing a difficult situation now because water is everywhere,” he said. “Millions of people are homeless and forced to live under open sky. They need tents, food, and medicines. Therefore, [it] is the responsibility of every single Pakistani to help the victims of [the] floods through practical steps.”

Many charities, including Christian organizations, are involved in relief work, but they have been struggling for resources and with mobility issues: Roads and bridges have been destroyed, making it difficult to reach people. Charity workers are reaching out by boat, but it has not been possible for them to reach everyone.

In his appeal, Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, the social arm of the Catholic Church in that country, said Caritas is seeking support and humanitarian assistance for flood victims. He said that through diocesan offices, Caritas’ Emergency Response Teams were reaching out to the affected areas, providing emergency assistance and conducting damage assessments.

“Our team members have been meeting [with] government district officers and different organizations and enhancing the coordination mechanism, so the relief work should be more effective and coordinated,” Gulzar said.

Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, a network of small farmers’ organizations, told CNA: “We are pleased that the whole nation is responding to the current challenge. People are generously donating money for aid work. For relief work, we have raised 2 million Pakistani rupees (about 900 U.S. dollars) in just a few days. In these difficult circumstances, our volunteers are doing a great job on the field.”

“However, the situation is so grave that we need more help from people,” he continued. “Countless numbers of people are still without proper food, medicine, clothing, and shelter, and they are waiting for aid. Women, children, elderly people, and persons with disabilities need more attention and help.”

State institutions — including the army — are working to rescue people as well as to provide food and shelter to those affected. However, the need is still great. Arshad praised those who are involved in relief work, especially government workers and army personnel.

Catholic Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, Sindh province, said the country was facing a very challenging situation now as people are left homeless and hungry as well as grieving over the loss of loved ones.

Pope Francis’ appeal

Along with other international leaders, Pope Francis on Sunday called on the international community to help Pakistan. 

“In this place that suffered a harsh calamity, I want to assure the people of Pakistan, hit by floods of disastrous proportions, of my nearness,” the pope said in his Angelus on Sunday while visiting L’Aquila, Italy. “I pray for the numerous victims, for the wounded and those forced from their homes, and that international solidarity might be prompt and generous.”

The pope’s appeal was on the front pages of Pakistani newspapers Monday. Catholics expressed their gratitude to the pope for his words toward those affected by the flooding.

Haroon Samuel, a Catholic schoolteacher from Muzaffargarh, told CNA that all Pakistanis, including Muslims, were thankful to Pope Francis for his concern for the Pakistani people regardless of their faith.

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