In this article we explore the Christian minority in Pakistan, the country’s history and major events.
Pakistan: land of beauty, rich in culture and history
You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan.M.A.Jinnah, Founder of modern Pakistan (1947)
From the high snows of the mountains in the North the river passes through rugged hills that were mined for salt by Alexander the Great 300 years before Christ, through the well-watered rice fields of Punjab and on to the sandy deserts of the south. On its way it passes the ruins of Moenjodaro, relics of a great civilization of 5000 years ago, whose descendants still populate the land.
Waves of invaders left their mark on the land of deserts, mountains and rich agricultural plains of Punjab: the Indo-European Aryans in 1500 BC, followed by the Muslim conquerors of the 13th century, and the British traders who began their imperial conquest 300 years ago.
Independent and free
In 1947, Pakistan was born as a proud and independent homeland for the Muslims of the British Indian Empire.The vision of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was of a land where all peoples, from every religion and caste, could live in freedom and peace.
Land of trouble, land of pain
Those early ideals did not last long. Since her birth in 1947, Pakistan has suffered:
- Four major wars with India and the loss of half the country (Bangladesh in 1971)
- Three periods of military dictatorship
- A catastrophic earthquake (70,000 died in 2005) and two major floods in 2010 and 2011
- An unsustainable population explosion (from 32 million in 1950 to 187 million in 2012)
- The current daily horror of terrorism, random killings, extremism and suicide bombings
In 1956 a new Constitution declared Pakistan to be an “Islamic Republic”.
While the Constitution declares Islam to be the State religion, it also states that “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures.”
Pakistan’s founding ideal was to be a land where people of all religions and races were equal. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding Father, famously said: “The minorities in Pakistan will be the citizens of Pakistan and enjoy all the rights, privileges and obligations of citizenship without any distinction of caste, creed or sect.”
- 96% of Pakistan’s 229millionpeople are Muslim
- About 5 million are Christian, 3 million Hindu and about 20,000 Sikh
- Pakistan’s 4 million Ahmadiyyas (a sect of Islam, treated as non-Muslims in Pakistan) are relatively well educated and wealthy
- The minorities, although granted almost equal rights under the law, in practice are treated as second-class citizens, with few social opportunities
- Christian and Hindu minorities have little access to education and are among the poorest and most neglected members of society
The Christian Minority in Pakistan
Approximately 5 million Christians live amongst Pakistan’s 229million Muslims. Most of them are the descendants of Punjabi Hindus who converted more than 100 years ago. Christianity however, has been present in the region much before colonial times and stories say that the Gospel was brought here by the Apostle Thomas. Their ancestors were from the lower Hindu castes —the descendants of the original peoples of the ancient Indus valley civilization. They are the true heirs of their Punjabi homeland!
Today, the Christian minority in Pakistan have almost equal rights in Pakistan’s Constitution, but are often forced to work as sweepers, servants of the rich and labourers. Many of these jobs being advertised “only non-Muslims can apply”. Because of their minority status and their poverty, 90% of the Christians are illiterate and have no realistic access to either education or justice.They are not only imprisoned by the “system” but also in their own thinking with little aspiration toward betterment.
This is why Starfish Asia is founded on the quote “If you want to help the Christian community, educate our children.” Our aim is that in everything from teacher training to well-developed facilities Christian Children can experience quality in education that will help them to feel that they are worth more than the image put on them from the outside or the picture of who they are from the inside. Quality of education that will help them to see new horizons and equip them to realistically reach their potential.
Liz EllisStarfish Asia 1200 627
7 August 2022
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