By Robin Gomes
A government school begun with the help of the Catholic Church in Afghanistan provides education to over 3,000 children, teaching them the values of peace and mutual acceptance and welcome.
The "Tangi Kalay - School of Peace", close to the Afghan capital, Kabul, which Italian Barnabite missionary, Father Giuseppe Moretti, helped found in 2005, today has 10 more classes in a new building that will accommodate 500 children.
Barnabite Father Giovanni Scalese, who currently heads the ‘Missio sui iuris” in Afghanistan, told the Vatican’s news agency, Fides, that a fund-raising campaign by Fr. Moretti made it possible to meet the request of the school principal for 250 two-seater desks.
Fr. Moretti, 80, was the Superior of the ‘Missio sui iuris’ since its creation in May 2002 until 2014, when he retired.
The "Tangi Kalay - School of Peace" is a state school with programmes and teachers selected by the Afghan government. However, it is able to operate only with private aid, including from various military contingents which help provide it with stationery and science and IT laboratory materials and instruments.
After 4 years, Fr. Moretti has temporarily returned to Afghanistan from Italy to replace Fr. Scalese who is on a summer holiday in July.
“When we proposed the summer holiday plan to Fr. Moretti, he responded with great enthusiasm,” Fr. Scalese told Fides. All who know him, he said, were overjoyed to see him again.
Afghanistan’s education system has been devastated by more than three decades of sustained conflict. For many of the country’s children, completing primary school remains a distant dream – especially in rural areas and for girls – despite recent progress in raising enrolment.
UNICEF, the United Nations children's fund, estimates 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan – 60% of them are girls.
“If we want to build peace in a country like Afghanistan, we must begin with the school, forming new generations,” Fr. Moretti told Vatican News recently. “It is a long journey but it is possible,” he said.
Islam is recognized as the state religion in Afghanistan and conversion to other faiths is considered a crime of apostasy. Hence, charity and humanitarian activities for the needy are the only option of the Afghan 'Missio sui iuris'.
The Catholic presence in Afghanistan was allowed at the beginning of the twentieth century as simple spiritual assistance within the Italian Embassy in Kabul. This was raised to the rank of 'Missio sui iuris' in 2002 by Pope St. John Paul II. Today the mission continues to be based at the Italian Embassy and is headed by Fr. Scalese.
There are also the Missionaries of Charity (MC) sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the inter-congregational non-governmental organization (NGO) called Pro Bambini di Kabul ”, PBK, (For the Children of Kabul) in the Afghan capital. (Source: Fides)