Fr. Bonnie Mendes
By Ashfaq Fateh, Principal, St. Peter's
High School, Toba Tek Singh, Pakistan
Bonnie Mendes came to the Punjab in 1967, after 5 years priestly
experience in Karachi. He came on loan from Karachi Archdiocese and he
has looked back since. He was Diocesan Director of Caritas Pakistan
Faisalabad for ten years and Executive Secretary of the National
Commission for Justice and Peace, also for ten years. Leave alone
locally, he also served as the Executive Secretary of Office for Human
Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, Manila, and
is now the Regional Coordinator of Caritas Asia in Bangkok.
Some remember his Farm to Market Road from Chak 424 JB to the main road,
built with the full cooperation of the people. It is documented as such
by the UN. However, his more important impact has been for participation
of people in development and the Church and also for gender growth. It
is incredible how he could manage to have mature mixed (boys and girls)
youth groups right from the 1970s.
Fr Bonnie established the Society for Human Development Centre popularly
known as Human Development Centre which continues to serve people in the
In December 1990 Fr. Bonnie was transferred to Toba Tek Singh from Jhang.
He opened a new branch of the Centre in Toba Tek Singh and trained
hundreds of young people to work in social sector. He sent these young
people to all over Pakistan to have interaction with other social change
organizations and donors. He built the capacities of young people and
finally, a full and well equipped team took over his work.
National Movements for Rights
In October 1992, then Federal Government decided to add religious column
in national indemnity card, Fr. Bonnie Mendes was the first to react
against this discriminatory decision by the Nawaz Government. He called
a meeting of the community. They decided to stage a sit at the office of
the Deputy Commissioner followed by hunger strike and later no work
strike in the city of Toba Tek Singh. The protest turned into a movement
all over the country and not only Christians but liberal Muslims and
civil society organizations supported the movement. The basic stand was
National Identity Card speaks about one's identity on the basis of
citizenship and not religion. Finally Nawaz Government was forced to
withdraw its decision. Similarly the protest against the Separate
Electorate System took years. As a member of COSAP, he worked tirelessly
with others to struggle till the Joint Electorate was restored in
He has spoken out openly against discriminatory laws including the
International Peace Award 2005
Association for Communal Harmony in Asia is a US based well known
organization promoting International peace in the world. After every two
years the organization gives International Peace Award to people from
Africa, Europe and Asia. This organization has its own network of
institutions, organizations and relationship with the governments that
helps the organization to grant international peace award to a person
changing people's day to day life. They honoured in their words this
"unsung hero Fr Bonnie" in Portland, Oregon, USA in October 2005, with
the ACHA STAR Peace Award.
THE WORK CONTINUES
Fr. Bonnie Mendes is in Thailand but his work is remembered and
continued. his youth and development workers are following his lines.
When recent violence against Christians occurred in Korian and Gojra,
district Toba Tek Singh. The government wanted to bury the dead
Christians without registering the case against the people involved.
The activists trained by Fr Bonnie decided to protest with the dead
bodies. They sat with the bodies on the railway lines. The rail traffic
was blocked for many hours and government tried not to register the
First Investigation Report. Finally government agreed and victims
nominated attackers were included in the case. The protest helped
Christians all over Pakistan and other liberal Muslims to put pressure
on the Pakistani government to take immediate and necessary actions to
support the victims. In December 2009 during his visit to Pakistan, Fr.
Bonnie visited both affected areas and victims.
The spirit instilled is present sometimes it is making sure "Sasta
Bazaar" reaches the common man and woman, sometimes, scholarships from
the government for bright deserving poor students.
Fr. Mendes is currently working as Regional Cooridnator Caritas Asia in
Bankok, Thailand. His email address is,
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