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Jesuits open school in Herat with government’s blessing

ICC Note: Good news as Christian group establishes a school in a hostile nation.

6/18/07 Afghanistan (AsiaNews) – The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has inaugurated a technical school in the heart of Herat , something that has been welcomed and praised by local authorities. Afghanistan ’s education minister, Mohmmad Hanif Atmar, who attended the opening ceremony last week, said that thanks to the school “ Afghanistan can reach new heights in education.”

Speaking from Kabul , Fr Giuseppe Moretti, in charge of the missio sui juris to the country, said that the new school was good news. “The high regards Jesuits enjoy in the field of education goes beyond the borders of Afghanistan and it is undoubtedly a positive development that local authorities are aware of that and want more.”

A few weeks ago, the JRS had opened a second mission in Bamyan.

The Herat Technical School cost the JRS US$ 145,355 “in donations from Jesuits around the world as well as friends and benefactors in Germany , Switzerland and Austria ,” said Brother Noel S.J. The Indian-born priest was one of the pioneers of the Catholic NGO in Afghanistan . He and Fr A. Santiago were instrumental in setting up the school.

“We had started supporting this school when it had only 67 students in the grade 10, with electricity/electronics as the main subjects. The government had other plans and today there are more than 490 students, of whom 120 are girls, with electricity/electronics and architecture as the main subjects and school enrolment on the increase,” Brother Noel said.

The minister submitted a plan to the Jesuits to turn the school into an autonomous institute, where students after grade 12 could follow a two-year training programme with strong emphasis on job-oriented practical knowledge.

Father Moretti, who runs the only parish church in Afghanistan , said that “the wherever Catholic humanitarian action is present it is like a seed. This is not only true for the Jesuits but even more so for the Little Sisters of Jesus, the Sisters of Mother Teresa, the Dominican Missionary Sisters of Saint Catherine, and the For the Children of Kabul Association which set up the first centre for mentally disabled children in Afghanistan .”

According to the Barnabite priest, “undoubtedly the Lord in the last few years has not tired showing His presence and giving blessing to this far-flung missio sui juris”.