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Christians in the Muslim World

The Drammatic Year for Christians in Pakistan

Religious intolerance was at its prime in the year 2009. It was quite a tumultuous one. The political, social and natural environment of Pakistan reached at a low ebb. It was particularly devastating for Christian community in Pakistan that came on the threshold of experiencing ethnic cleansing at the hands of religious fanatics. The one after another assaults changed victims but carried on with almost same pattern and pretext. The pattern was brutality against weak and defenseless and pretext was the Blasphemy Laws. The brief summary of atrocities committed in the name of religion is as follow:



June 30, 2009 Bahmniwala, Kasur: More than 110 Christian families of village were forced to flee from their houses on dread of attack by Muslims from surrounding villages on blasphemy charges. Apparently a brief scuffle between a Christian and Muslim youth initiated this tension that was later given the hue of religious violence.



July 30, 2009 Korian, Gojra: About forty Christian homes and properties were attack by arsonists on charges of blasphemy laws violation in local Christian wedding.



August 1, 2009 Gojra: The cruel mob besieged Christian residential area and used powerful chemicals to set on fire Christian people and homes. Nine women and children were burnt alive in this horrendous episode that had nowhere to run and protect themselves. A banned Islamic militant organization was held responsible for the hideous crime. But circumstantial evidence indicates that local administration had role to play in it.



September 15, 2009 Jethike, Sialkot: A Christian teenager boy Robert Fanish Masih’s body was found hanging in absurd and ludicrous fashion in jail. Police officials claimed that he committed suicide. He was arrested few days back on Blasphemy charges. Obvious signs of torture and wounds on his body defied official version yet the incident was hushed.



Despite the repeated misuse of the Blasphemy Laws, leader of popular Islamic party in public rally said it would be defended at any cost and Muslims will lynch the accused on Blasphemy publically in absence of laws anyway. Such type of statements from popular and respected leader only portray collective psyche of society.


In such times when Christians are facing so much insecurity and uncertainty in Pakistan, the Advent season and Christmas were particularly poignant for all the Christian population in the country. Instead of celebrating the birth of Prince of Peace with regular zeal and fervor they wondered how could they celebrate and merry when their brothers and sisters went through so much suffering and turmoil. And it was not as there was a definite line drawn to mark the end of persecutions of Christians but it is obvious case of wait-till-your-turn situation. The manger which is sign of embracing and humility could not be accessed by everyone due to heavy contingent of security forces at the churches. In most places the midnight service was altogether cancelled or rescheduled in light of prevailing threat against places of worship. Christmas was observed with sobriety and solemnity not because Christians in Pakistan no longer feel any attachment or affiliation to this great religious occasion but the grim circumstances of country and specifically of fellow Christians made them worry and distressed. They were prayerful and spent time in vigils to commemorate those martyrs who had no other fault of their own except they were called by the name of Christ and believed in him. Pakistani Christians whether they were in Gojra, Kasur, Sialkot, Sindh, Balochistan or abroad were praying that may holy guardian angels of our God keep everyone safe and Christians especially at this time of adversity and affliction.



To understand and know deeper


Pakistan is an ideological state that emerged in 1947 as result of collective struggle and contribution by people of this region. The predominant group in the historic struggle for Pakistan was of Muslims but history is quite evident that despite being less in number non-Muslims played absolutely crucial role where it mattered the most. One reason why non-Muslim citizenry chose to support Pakistan was not only geographical but ideological too. There was natural understanding in them that being themselves once a minority community in united India, the Muslims would have a built in empathy and quality to relate to minorities in Pakistan too. Besides that the vision and approach of founding father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam [the great leader] Muhammad Ali Jinnah was so forthright and remarkable that somehow it provided a new hope. Hope that everybody’s interest would be taken care of in the new country. No one would be considered outcast and insignificant to participate in the affairs of the country. All the people living in it would have equal rights and opportunities and no one would be discriminated against on the basis of caste, color, creed and gender in new Pakistan. Unfortunately, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah expired on August 11, 1948 and the acumen, wisdom and vision of the great man seemed to vanish with him. Hopes and aspirations of millions of people dissolved when Pakistan started to acquire grotesque shape of imperialism cum fascism in the guise of Islamization [sic] of Pakistan.



The polity of Pakistan with the only exception of Jinnah is replete with people who exploited religion in effort to prolong their whiff with power. The profound tragedy is that desperate, temporal and self-serving actions of politicians have harmed the country and society on the longer run. The laws and policies were and are still made on personal whims and likes of people at the helm of affairs and long-term interests and good of people are nobody’s priority and business. All this has led to gradual decay and deterioration of system. So much so that it seems there is systemic failure; the repercussions of which are observed in the manifestations of frustration, dissatisfaction and jadedness in general society. What could be more disgruntling than the fact that it’s been more than sixty-two years since the creation of Pakistan [Lit. land of Pure] and during these sixty-two years at least sixty-four people [presidents & prime ministers] have influenced Pakistan adversely.



Decades following independence of Pakistan, direct and indirect sometimes sporadic and often consistent efforts to Islamize the country by those quarters were made who flagrantly opposed creation of Pakistan at the first place during independence struggle. When they saw that they could not prevent Pakistan from materializing they adopted, seemingly, an alternative approach to disgrace it. They began tearing the liberal, progressive and secular fabric of society and daubed it with tarts of extremism and religious fundamentalism. The process reached its culmination in Zia time. He in fact ran the whole thing in overdrive mode that contributors of Islamization process suddenly found themselves on the centre stage of everything. So begins the nemesis of Pakistan.


Zia initiated the process on multiple fronts. It gained further impetus with the Cold War between USA and USSR that ended with the disintegration of latter in 1991. The influx of Saudi petro-dollars and US ammunition created phenomenon of Talibans. A vile force of mercenaries and bigots that doesn’t accepts any viewpoint other than their own. It was also accompanied by hardening of religious views in society. The anti-west sentiments developed in the aftermath of 9/11 also aggravated the situation.


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