I was nervous when I waited that cold morning in 1983 for Sister Rose. At 15, I was a senior student at school, at the Convent school in Lahore, established over 100 years ago by Catholic missionaries from abroad. Later that year, I would be taking my O-levels, sent over from Cambridge University, so that the young daughters of upwardly mobile and wealthy families could obtain British credentials. But for now, I was preoccupied with other things.
I was always a rather thoughtful child, inclined to moral and spiritual reflection. And in my early teens, an urge to seek a deeper spiritual life welled up inside me. It was not something I understood terribly well. The milieu was Pakistan in the 1980s, mildly mutinous under General Zia’s “Islamic” dictatorship. Most people I knew were more concerned about worldly matters than about spiritual quests. Perhaps Sister Rose would understand. She had, after all, sought the religious life as a young woman and now lived in a nunnery as a school headmistress. So that morning, I approached her nervously at the staircase.
“Yes?” she paused at the top of the stairs. Sister Rose stood across from the beautiful statue of Mary — Mary with a mantle over her head and a serpent under her feet. …
Read the rest at Religion Dispatches. I wondered how to frame this story – cultural imperialism, race, European Christian missionary work in developing countries, the education of children, power and religion, women, clothing — and I couldn’t categorize it under any one label. I leave you to try.