On Sunday August 28, leaders of Protestant and Catholic churches across Pakistan appealed for aid for flood victims in the country, where the government has declared a national emergency.
About a third of Pakistan is submerged, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Submerged residential areas resulted in the loss of homes, animals and personal property. In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest metropolis, infrastructure has been decimated. While rural areas have been the hardest hit, metropolitan areas are also facing challenges.
Since June, more than 1,100 people have died and more than 33 million people have been displaced or otherwise injured. The Federal Flood Commission of Pakistan estimated that the current floods were worse than those that hit Pakistan in 2010.
Church leaders have asked for help from local and international populations. The head of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi has called on 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 in the open. They need tents, food and medicine. Therefore, [it]is the responsibility of every Pakistani to help the victims of [the]flooding through practical steps.
Many charities, especially Christian groups, are engaged in relief operations, but they struggle to move around and access resources: the destruction of roads and bridges makes it more difficult to reach people. Charity workers are trying to reach by boat, but they haven’t been able to contact everyone.
Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, the social arm of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, said in his plea that Caritas was asking for humanitarian support and supplies for flood victims. He said that through diocesan offices, Caritas emergency response teams were providing emergency aid and carrying out damage assessments in the affected areas.
“The members of our team met [with]district government officers and different organizations and improving the coordination mechanism, so the relief work should be more efficient and coordinated,” Gulzar said.
Farooq Tariq, secretary general of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, a network of small-scale farmers’ organizations, told CNA: “We are delighted that the whole nation is responding to the current challenge. People generously donate money for relief work. For the relief work, we raised 2 million Pakistani rupees (approximately US$900) in just a few days. In these difficult circumstances, our volunteers are doing excellent work on the ground.
“However, the situation is so serious that we need more help from people,” he continued. “Countless people are still without food, medicine, clothing and shelter, and they are waiting for help. Women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities need more attention and help.
State institutions, including the military, attempt to rescue individuals and assist them with food and shelter. However, demand remains high. Arshad thanked everyone involved in the relief efforts, especially government workers and the military.
Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad in Sindh Province said the nation is now facing a very difficult position as many people are homeless, starving and mourning the death of loved ones.
Along with other world leaders, Pope Francis on Sunday called on the international community to help Pakistan.
“In this place which has suffered a severe calamity, I want to assure the people of Pakistan, hit by floods of disastrous proportions, of my closeness,” the pope said in his Angelus on Sunday during a visit to L’Aquila, in Italy. “I pray for the many victims, for the injured and those who have been forced from their homes, and for international solidarity to be swift and generous.”
On Monday, the pope’s call made headlines across Pakistan. Catholics thanked the Pope for his words of support for those affected by the floods.
A Catholic teacher from Muzaffargarh, Haroon Samuel, told CNA that all Pakistanis, including Muslims, are grateful to Pope Francis for his compassion towards the Pakistani people.