Apart from my General Council work, I have found myself unofficial chaplain to foreign inmates in five Hong Kong prisons. Many are Christians from Africa and South America, but there are a significant number of Muslims too from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. I often distribute Catholic, and Columban, material in English and Spanish, but to my surprise, one day a number of Pakistani Muslims asked me to get for them Urdu Bibles. I have to admit that I was puzzled and skeptical about this, wondering if they wanted Bibles to read and then ridicule/denigrate during their Friday prayers. But as I have got to know these Muslim brothers more personally, I no longer believe that. In fact, they are the first to run to get me juice and biscuits (from their small personal supply) when I visit their workshops. They have shown me nothing but respect and gratitude for any small act of kindness I do them (such as emailing their families). They come to Mass and scripture sessions and a number have even asked for baptism which I have dissuaded, asking them to think carefully about its consequences when they return home. Prison ministry continues to teach that deep down, and especially when "the chips are down" such as in prison, we all have the same human needs for friendship, meaning and connection – "we are ALL doing time."
Columban Fr. Pat Colgan serves on the Society's General Council and lives and works in Hong Kong.