Honoured by Pakistan

Pakistan’s highest civilian award given to Fr Robert McCulloch.

Australian born, Columban Fr Robert McCulloch has been awarded the Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam, the highest civilian award that can be given to foreign nationals with the citation: "For services to Health, Education, and Inter-Faith Relations.”

Fr Robert McCulloch has been in Pakistan for over 30 years and is the Chairman of St Elizabeth Hospital’s Administrative Council which provides quality medical services to the people of Hyderabad and rural parts of Sindh.  He also runs a medical outreach programme in rural Sindh.

He set up the first home-based Palliative Care unit in Pakistan and initiated projects to provide educational, spiritual, moral and personal formation for 150 Catholic boys and young men in Hyderabad. As a result, the Catholic Centre of Academic and the Catholic Youth Development Centre were set up.

His other major contribution included taking steps to preserve language of Tharparker known as Parkari Kohli.

During the floods of 2011 he arranged to provide food and medical treatment to over 1,000 families in Southern Pakistan and is building accommodation for the flood victims.

In a recent interview Fr McCulloch said:

“I have lived more than half my life happily in Pakistan. When the Governor of Sindh phoned me in Rome to give the news that I had been honoured by Pakistan with this award, I sat back and thought of all the people in different places in Pakistan whom I have known and ministered to and worked with. And I said to myself: "Yes, we have all done good things together." Of course, I am personally honoured as a Columban priest in receiving the award but it is also a wonderful public recognition by the President and people of Pakistan of the presence and role of the Catholic Church in Pakistan.

In everything I have done, Bishop Max Rodrigues of Hyderabad has always given me support, kindness, encouragement and friendship.

I see the award as a public statement by the government of Pakistan that it rejects the current stream of anti-Christian feeling being pushed by Islamic fundamentalists and extremists in Pakistan.

I think the great challenge for Pakistani Christians is to never under-estimate their goodness. Christians in Pakistan are very often labelled as a minority and told "you can't do that because you are non-Muslim". I have always encouraged them to reply "I can because I'm Catholic" and to be proud of being both Christian and Pakistani. They often have to face opposition and threats. As a priest, I am in their debt because they have inspired me to be full of faith in spite of everything that may happen. “

The ceremony will be conducted by the President of Pakistan on March 16 in Islamabad, followed by a reception at Government House in Karachi hosted by the Governor of Sindh.

Fr Robert McCulloch is the Procurator General for St Columbans Mission Society in Rome.

Click here to read the unedited version

Read more from The Far East, March 2012