Joti Educational and Cultural Centre

14th June 2017 - by Stephen Awre

Tomas King and Joti Centre Team (web750)
Fr. Tomas King (far left) with the team who organise and host courses and conferences at the Joti Centre
Find out more about our work on:

Fr Tomas King writes from Pakistan about his new appointment as director of the Joti Educational and Cultural Centre and the opportunities this provides. 

In October of last year, I formally began as director of the Joti Educational and Cultural Centre, or Joti Centre as it is known for short, which is the catechetical centre of the Hyderabad Diocese. The word ‘Joti’ or ‘Joyti’, which means ‘light’, is derived from Sanskrit and is a word used in many of the languages of the Sub-Continent.

The Joti Centre is based within the church compound of St. Michael‘s parish in Mirpurkhas, a city famous for its luscious mango orchards and countless Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO). The Centre started in the early 1990‘s in a small room in the parish house. It had a team of four people – a diocesan priest, a Columban sister, a Mill Hill missionary and a lay man. The main focus was on preparing catechetical materials and then visiting parishes to train people in how to use them.

Today, the Centre has evolved into a large building with accommodation for more than 100 people at a time for live-in seminars and programmes. So, the focus has shifted more to the centre rather than visitation of far-flung parishes. Hopefully, in time and with intention, a balance can be found between activities at the centre and the peripheries.

The Centre organises and hosts many programmes including Advent Preparation Days, Lent Preparation Days, Religion Teachers In-Service Training, Catechists In-Service Training, Family Life, Training for Transformation, and the annual Inter Diocesan Tribal Meeting. This Tribal Meeting involves church personnel ministering to Tribal Peoples in the dioceses of Hyderabad, Multan and Karachi.

‘Joti’ has played an important role in attempts at genuine inculturation within the local church. It is also used by groups for their retreats. In coordination with the Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Team and Inter-religious Dialogue (IRD) Team, workshops on Laudato Si’ and IRD have been organised and hosted. So, the Centre has the potential to bring people and groups together and create the space where Columban mission priorities – ministry to the Tribal Peoples, IRD, Ecology (especially climate change and water) and the formation of lay and religious can be carried out.

In addition to being director of the Joti Centre, I continue to look after the parish of Nagar Parkar, which is on the border with India, in the Thar Parkar Desert. To visit there, I must get permission each month from the Home Department. It is getting more difficult due to the difficult relationship with India. The parish infrastructure is in place so it is time to hand over to local personnel, who will be able to live there full time. For now, though, the bishop is unable to make someone available to do this.

The drive from Mirpurkhas to Nagar Parkar passes through the Thar Parkar Desert, which is the location of large reservoirs of coal. They are in the process of being mined. The work is being carried out in agreement with the Chinese government and Chinese companies. Many Chinese workers have arrived, making their security a major concern.

The mining will obviously have an impact on the lives of the local people and their environment. Many villages will be displaced. There are many NGOs working in the Thar Parkar Desert, but they are silent on the impact of the mining. The NGOs I have spoken to say they are silent because they are afraid their funding will be blocked if they protest. Nearly all NGOs depend on overseas funding.

The government is determined to build the power plants which it hopes will bring an end to the constant power cuts, especially during the hot summer months and is not in the mood to tolerate opposition. The government signed international agreements to limit fossil fuel emissions. It talks the talk but does not walk the walk. Hopefully they are not following a ‘joti’ (light) that will eventually lead to darkness.