By Zubeida Mustafa
When I learnt of the church bombing in Peshawar last Sunday, it pained me to the core of my heart. “How could they do it?” was the question that came to my mind immediately. “How could they do it to a people who are known for their service to humanity?” I asked again. “And they are also human beings like any of us and better in many ways.”
A part of me died with those who died in the church in Peshawar on Sunday. So many of the advantages that I and millions of others like me have managed to achieve in life is by virtue of the good education imparted by the Christian missionaries and teachers in Pakistan in the last 65 years. Their passion for education and their love for humanity is legendary. By trying to destroy them, the monsters are trying to destroy us all.
Dr Adil Zareef reflected the same feelings when he wrote, “This was the most shattering experience for people like me who have studied in a missionary school called St Mary’s and owe our knowledge, world vision and conditioning of our minds to these selfless and dedicated missionaries who have given so much to our society in terms of education, health and other services.”
Harris Khalique’s “Sir Das, I am sorry” captures my feelings poignantly. It may not be Mr Das for me but many others – I won’t attempt to name them, as I may inadvertently miss out some. But I will mention Sister Zinia Pinto who passed away recently. In her lifetime she emerged as an eminent educationist and on 7 September the Alumni of the St Joseph’s Convent School held a memorial meeting for her. Since I couldn’t attend, I sent a message. It acquires greater relevance in the wake of the Peshawar church bombing. It is reproduced here below and like Harris Khalique I can only say “Sister Zinia and all the others, my sincere apologies”.here it is:
On occasions such as these one always has mixed feelings. The demise of Sister Zinia Pinto is a sad and irreplaceable loss of a dear friend for me and many others too, for Sister had a large following among the Josephian community. We will miss Sister’s reassuring presence. Her soft and gentle voice will no more be heard in the school corridors. For us St Joseph’s was identified with Sister Zinia for over 50 years.
But I must also add that this is an occasion for us to celebrate Sister Zinia’s life and achievements. They are by no means small. She was my contemporary and we went to the University together. We took separate paths – she became an educationist and I eventually took up journalism. I closely saw the school grow under her stewardship and I was witness to the positive influence she wielded on our children’s lives. Both my girls studied at the St Joseph’s and we will remain for ever grateful to her for the role she played in the mental, intellectual and personality development of my daughters and thousands of other girls whose education was entrusted to her.
The St Joseph’s owes much to Sister Zinia. She made it what it is today – an institution of excellence. It was her vision that allowed the SJC to emerge as a delicate and sophisticated blend of the traditional and the modern. That is what society should be and that is what any educational institution worth its salt should be. Sister Zinia had the discretion to hold on to old values that she considered important and which lent continuity to this great institution of learning . She also had the courage to reject such conventions that were misfits in present day life. She went on to adopt new areas of knowledge and methodologies that, she judged from her profound wisdom and long experience, would benefit the students and the school. That is how the St Joseph’s has all the fine qualities of a modern institution that is guided by the traditions brought over from its 151 year-existence.
I valued her as a superb guide. As any mother knows there are times when her children can drive her up the wall. Sister always had a word of assurance and advice and she was always right.
Above all Sister Zinia’s contributions to the field of education in Pakistan were not confined to the St Joseph’s alone. She was widely respected as an educationist and her role in this field has won widespread recognition. I would not be wrong if I were to describe her as an icon.
I thank Mrs Kapadia for giving me this opportunity to pay tribute to this educationist par excellence. Since I am not in Karachi at the moment, hence this message and not my presence. My daughters, Seemi and Huma Mustafa, owe much to Sister and they join me on this occasion in remembering our friend, teacher and guide with affection and gratitude. We will miss you Sister Zinia.