Living as a Christian or a minority has to go through a variety of diverse experiences throughout their life span. During pre-partition period of subcontinent, Christian community enthusiastically raised their support in the favour of creation of Pakistan as they believed that Muslims, after living as a minority in British India, will realize significance of emphasis on the rights of minorities. In Pakistan, state has throughout endeavored its contribution to protect Christian community but according to Christian representatives, they are still facing a precarious identity crisis within the society.
Pakistan is a country where Christians comprise almost 1.6 percent of the total population and mount as the second biggest minority after Hindus. The majority of the Christians in Pakistan are historically descendants of lower-caste Hindus who later on converted to Christianity hundreds of years ago. As per the bill of 2009, state secured 5 perc of government jobs for minorities and article 50 of the constitution has allotted 10 seats of national assembly only for the minorities. In this whole picture of government of Pakistan contributing for the welfare of Christian community, their identity with in the society is still questionable.
After talking to a number of Christian community leaders, all of them appreciated government’s contribution for the community but they exhibited their heart broken emotions on the bases of their treatment by the society. In an interview with us, Pastor Wilston Asghar, chairman God bless Tv and MPA candidate from PP160, he emphasized. “We don’t have any complain from the government of Pakistan. With the 2018’s ruling by the chief justice of Pakistan, court officially provided us with the identity to be referred as ‘Masihi’ instead of ‘derogatory cliché’, but still majority people in the society, do not even call us with our own names and they always possess prejudice against Christians by specifying ourselves with the names of “derogatory cliché”
Wilston also stated miserable story of her daughter where he elaborated intense identity crisis faced by her as a school going student because fellow students or class fellows used to bully her by saying that she has no right to be called as “Pakistani” because she is not Muslim as she is a Christian. When school going students will be nurtured with the mindset of prejudice against minorities, how could be the next generation raised with equal respect for every religion?
In actual, few extremist groups are not just damaging Pakistan internally but they also impose precarious external implications as well. In 2017, bomb attack at Quetta’s church, which left 9 people dead with 59 injured did not just pour negative mark on the security system of Pakistan but also questioned religious freedom in the country with respect to the lens of foreign world. Similarly, on the day of easter, when 70 Christians where got killed in a suicide attack at Lahore in 2016, it did not just showcase poor law enforcement in Punjab but this event also emerged as a matter of immense shame for Pakistan as a nation in the eyes of western world.
With all such attacks on the community in Pakistan, how can Christians really feel save and as equal citizens in Pakistan? In the world of 21st century, nations across the world are appreciated on the bases of their religious freedom they could get to their citizens. Until the time, where Pakistan could not arrange equal security for minorities in the country, minorities can never feel equal citizens in the country.
As far as the Islamic religious point of view of this context is concerned, it is also concretely not justifiable to kill non-Muslims on the bases of their religion. In addition, forceful conversions to Islam are strictly prohibited according to the Islamic law. In this way, when we call our country Islamic republic of Pakistan, it turned to be our religious responsibility as citizens and as a country to protect the rights of the minorities and treat them as equal citizens.
Another Christian father “Michael Gulzar” from Lahore, says “we Christians get jobs which are low level and comparatively less paid”. He explained that he has seen many people from his community when they go to get a job, Muslims always give them low level job such as sever cleaning and dusting and give comparatively better jobs such as dish washing and cooking to the Muslims. He added that Christians also receive less pay in comparison of a Muslims for the same task just because Christians are considered as people who can easily be hired with low wages because nobody easily give them any job. In this way, in Michael’s opinion, there is a gigantic discrimination existential for Christians at the workplace.
Another point raised by Michael possesses relevance to the identity crisis existential with the community. He highlighted “People often use the word ‘Chura’ unlike of calling his/her own name.” As far as the translation of this slang word is concerned, it refers to something “dirty” and “ugly”, which in another words, is an intimidating word of enormous disrespect for any human being. Similarly, people in the society call Christians Esai on contrary to what bible says that they are Masihi. In this way, where other people in the society, except Christians, would be called by the society with their own names and Christians would be called with derogatory cliché, how can be Christians live as equal citizens in Pakistan? While considering such derogatory identifications for community members, Christians suffer enormous identity crisis with in the society not because of the government but because of the prevalence of stereotypical societal perception about them.
Considering all the debarments of Christian community, as a Pakistani we need to treat them as equal citizens because the flag of Pakistan is not only constituent of green colour but it also has a sizeable chunk for white colour which represents that this country is also a country for minorities and they should hold a right to live equally as anyone from the majority. From this clearly apparent message by the flag, Christians should be equal both in the eyes of government and its people.
For the betterment of Christian community in Pakistan and their existence as equal Pakistanis, government has done enough contribution in the name of National assembly seats for minorities, 5 percent jobs, and verdict related to their identification as “Masihi” but now there is a massive requirement of potential change in the behaviour of society to start perceiving Christians as equal Pakistanis by stop calling them derogatory cliché and by dealing them equally as an employer, at educational institutions, work places, and with respect to their practices related to their religious freedom.
This Article is by Hassam Naeem and can be contacted by email: [email protected]