Pakistan’s religions

img_pakistanPakistan was a country carved out of the British Indian Empire in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of India. 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 220 million people 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

Image of Pakistani childrenApproximately 5 million Christians live amongst Pakistan’s 220 million Muslims. Most of them are the descendants of Punjabi Hindus who converted more than 100 years ago.

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 Christians are a minority — having almost equal rights in Pakistan’s Constitution, but often forced to work as sweepers, servants of the rich and labourers. Because of their minority status and their poverty, 90% of the Christians are illiterate and have no realistic access to either education or justice.

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