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Blind Dominican helps Pakistani Christians

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Using his own experience of discrimination, Sabir Michael feels it is his duty to help minorities.

Sabir Michael was blind at birth, but it did not stop him from becoming the first and only visually-impaired Christian in Pakistan to complete a PhD degree. “My thesis on the socio-economic problems of Christians and Hindus in Karachi became my mission. Both communities are generally poor and face the same discrimination. It was important to document and understand the phenomenon I faced myself and move forward,” says Michael, a lay member of the Dominicans, a Catholic spiritual order.
Lay Dominicans live in the world as married or single persons following a rule based on the spirit of St. Dominic and share in the spiritual benefits and mission of the Dominican Order.
“The situation of human rights is worsening in the country. The constitution itself makes us a second-class system. Perhaps there is an undisclosed state policy to keep religious minorities at a certain level and ignore their development. Even in the 21st century, their utensils are kept separate,” Michael says. “Extremist groups target our communities”.
Michael, 40, teaches in the social work department of Karachi University and is a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistani Bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace and the Social Welfare Council in Sindh province. He heads two NGOs, one of which works for the rights of vulnerable sections of society including women, children, minorities and the disabled..
All of this could not have been possible without the support of the Catholic Church, especially as his father was a poor sanitary worker before retiring three years ago. “Two of my siblings are also blind, but they are also completing their studies. A British Daughters of the Heart of Mary novitiate spotted me when I was seven and sent me to a home for the blind run by an Italian priest in Okara, a city in Punjab,” said Michael.
Michael was among more than 50 blind students from all over the country. “In grade seven, I decided to become very different and more qualified than others. .I used to ask my friends to read books for me. The priest and some of my Muslim friends even sponsored my doctorate. Church people prepared me for the struggle in society,” he said.
 Michael says he had to face discrimination on multiple grounds. Despite all the challenges, he feels bound to serve Pakistan’s minorities. Besides defending human rights, Michael leads the choir at St. Paul Church and helped his parish priest in forming the St. Dominic chapter in 2002 in Karachi. His group provides Bible classes to group members, prepares laity to become Eucharistic ministers, conducts prayer visits and holds prayers for the sick in 18 parishes of the southern archdiocese.
Michael is a father of three children and is  also a volunteer guest speaker at the National Catholic Institute of Theology, where he helps students in their research.  “I am financing the schooling of 10 students. My sight can never be recovered, but I feel duty-bound to serve the church and use my skills to work for change in society,” he said.
(Extracted from ucanews.com)