Environmental Stations of the Cross

Bishop Samson Shukardin of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad launched the Environmental Stations of the Cross in four languages.

Bishop Samson Shukardin of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad launched the Environmental Stations of the Cross in four languages. Photo: Fr Liam O'Callaghan

The Columbans have been working in Hyderabad diocese, which is located in Sindh province, southern Pakistan since 1983. We were invited by the then Bishop, Bonaventure Paul OFM to work in the area of ministry to tribal communities in the diocese. The Columbans began working with the Parkari Kohli people and this continues to this day. The majority of Christians in Pakistan are from the Punjabi community, with a tiny tribal minority, the minority of which are in Hyderabad diocese, with some also in Multan diocese and Karachi archdiocese. The main tribal groups are: - Parkari Kohli, Kutchi Kohli, Marwari, Sindhi Bheel.

On February 29, 2024 in Joti Centre, Mirpurkhas, Bishop Samson Shukardin of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad launched the Environmental Stations of the Cross in four languages – Urdu, English, Parkari Kohli and Kutchi Kohli. The launch was part of the Year of Catechesis which the diocese is celebrating this year.

The Environmental stations of the cross takes the format of the traditional stations which have been widely used throughout the world since the sixteenth century. The Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross is a series of images depicting Jesus on the day of his crucifixion and accompanying prayers. The stations grew out of imitations of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which is a traditional processional route symbolizing the path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary.

For the last eight years the Columban JPIC team have been working in the area of environmental protection in Hyderabad, trying to bring awareness to parishes and schools in the diocese of the urgency of the environmental crisis, which is having such detrimental effects on Pakistan, seen most recently in the terrible flooding of 2022, when 30% of the country was under water. The inspiration of Pope Francis, especially his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ (Care for our Common Home) is the foundation of our work.

The idea behind the Environmental Stations of the Cross is to help Christians make the connection between the sufferings of Jesus and the sufferings of Mother Earth, our Common Home, because of pollution, climate change and environmental destruction. In doing so, we will be responding to the call of Pope Francis, that our faith must inspire us to care for our Common Home. Our ‘ecological conversion’ is urgent because it is human activity, based on greed, carelessness and unsustainable lifestyles which is causing much of this environmental destruction.

There are environmental topics chosen to match each station, the topics were chosen reflecting the actual situation in Pakistan and beyond: - pollution, reduced quality of life, concern for future generations, forced migration, greed and selfishness, biodiversity loss, ecological conversion, New life and new hope (15th). With each station and topic, there is a relevant Scripture quotation, and a quotation from Laudato Si’; this is followed by a reflection on the theme and then the final prayer and ending as normal.

Fr. Liam O’Callaghan prepared an English draft, based on different reflections and sources and also reflecting on the experience of the JPIC team researching of the climate crisis in general but in particular in Pakistan and Sindh. This draft was the basis used during a Lenten reflection in 2022 in Joti Centre, the Educational and Cultural centre of Hyderabad diocese when 49 participants from all over the diocese gathered and over the day working in small groups helped create another draft which would eventually lead to the final result.

Bishop Samson Shukardin of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad launched the Environmental Stations of the Cross in four languages. Photo: Fr Liam O'Callaghan

The main work on the Urdu text was done by a catechist in the Cathedral parish, Hyderabad Master Younus Naqash and Columban co-worker, Danish Yakoob. The Parkari Kohli translation was done from Urdu by Master Jerome and his son Aftab from Khipro and the Kutchi Kohli translation was done from Urdu by Sir Hario with help from Fr. Zacheria and the catechists in Tando Allahyar parish.

It was used during Lent in some parishes and we received positive feedback as to how people responded to it. We hope that this new resource will be used across the diocese and be a source of blessing, faith and renewed awareness of our spiritual responsibility to care for our Common Home.

Columban Fr Liam O'Callaghan has spent most of his missionary life in Pakistan.

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