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Christians’ Pakistan

Christians, the followers of the Jesus, composite most of the non-Muslim minority in Pakistan and account for 1.5 per cent of the total population. Most Christians in Pakistan come from an ‘untouchable’ background. The 1855 census shows there were no native Christians in present Pakistan. With the efforts of missionaries, by 1881 there were only 3,912 native Christians who had come from various religious, social, economic and urban backgrounds. The urban and heterogeneous landscape of Christianity in the Punjab changed to homogenous and rural after a man from an ‘untouchable’ background, identified only by a single name, Ditt, converted in the village of Shahabdike in Narowal in 1873. Ditt invited others to convert to Christianity to get rid of untouchability and caste disabilities. Ditt’s caste rapidly responded to the call and the number of Christians dramatically swelled in the central Punjab.

Christians, the followers of the Jesus, composite most of the non-Muslim minority in Pakistan and account for 1.5 per cent of the total population. Most Christians in Pakistan come from an ‘untouchable’ background. The 1855 census shows there were no native Christians in present Pakistan. With the efforts of missionaries, by 1881 there were only 3,912 native Christians who had come from various religious, social, economic and urban backgrounds. The urban and heterogeneous landscape of Christianity in the Punjab changed to homogenous and rural after a man from an ‘untouchable’ background, identified only by a single name, Ditt, converted in the village of Shahabdike in Narowal in 1873. Ditt invited others to convert to Christianity to get rid of untouchability and caste disabilities. Ditt’s caste rapidly responded to the call and the number of Christians dramatically swelled in the central Punjab.
The number increased from 3,912 in 1881 to 511,299 by 1941.

Approximately 95 percent of the population in Pakistan is Muslim (Sunni-Shia). Groups composing 5 percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, Parsis/Zoroastrians, and Baha’is, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmadis, and others. According to the Ministry for Minorities Affairs, Sikhs have approximately 30,000 adherents and Buddhists 20,000. According to a Parsi community center in Karachi, the number of Parsis (Zoroastrians) dropped to 1,750 in 2010 as compared to 2,039 in June 2006. The number of Ahmadis in the country, according to Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, is nearly 600,000. Some tribes in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa practiced traditional animist religious beliefs; other religious groups include Kalasha, Kihals, and Jains. Less than 0.5 percent of the population, as recorded in the 1998 census, was silent on religious affiliation or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons claimed no religious affiliation.

Historically, After the partition other minorities in general while Christians in particular, were assigned occupations described as degrading and defiling, that is collecting carcasses, manually removing human excreta from lavatories, providing cheap labor in fields and executing criminals on the orders of the state. It was Tara Masih, a Christian, who carried out Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution in 1979 and Masih’s father had hanged independence movement hero Bhagat Singh in 1931.

The Christian’s representation in sanitation work, however, is above 80 percent. World Watch Monitor data states that about 6,000 out of 7,894 sanitation workers in the Lahore Waste Management Company are Christian and 768 out of 978 workers in the Quetta Municipal Corporation are Christian. 824 out of 935 sanitation workers in the Peshawar Municipal Corporation are Christian. Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority has 1,500 sanitation workers and all of them are Christian. they also have a very high representation in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) province and Karachi municipal corporations in Sindh province.

Regretfully, after the partition in 1974, the land left by the Sikhs in Punjab and Sindh was distributed among Muslim migrants arriving from India while Christians living on this land were evicted causing nearly 300,000 Christians homeless and on the verge of starvation, the consequences of which are too horrible to imagine. After being internally displaced, the only option these 300,000 Christians had was to move to cities and work as sweepers, Over the years, they migrated to metropolitan areas where they illegally settled on government land without any basic amenities: giving birth to hundreds of illegal settlements.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that exists only on paper in Pakistan. Each year thousands of Christians suffer at the hands of religious bigots who use blasphemy as an excuse to ruin their life. Christian girls are increasingly being forced to convert to Islam. According to Aurat Foundation, a Pakistani local NGO, report on 13 July 2015, around 1,000 girls are forced to convert to Islam every year in Pakistan. The victims of these forced conversions are largely girls from the Pakistani Christian and Hindu communities. Punjab province has become a hub of forced conversion; every time a case of gross injustice is reported in the media while the victim remains without justice.

Nonetheless, the Christian community in Pakistan is celebrating Christmas just like the millions of Christians all over the world. Christmas tree which is considered as main ritual of the Christmas celebration creates more charisma to the festivity of Christmas with its colorful decorative look. Youngsters and children are excited while waiting for Santa Claus in his vibrant outfit of red coat. Groups of young boys and girls are preparing carols to present on Christmas day. Women at home cook delicious food for family and friends. Gifts are wrapped to share joy and exchange best wishes with the loved ones. Churches are being decorated with fairy lights, colorful bulbs and the traditional Christmas trees. Community people serve foodstuff to the community eyeing on the day when the sun will dawn in the country where their coming generations will be treated as equal and reverential citizen of Pakistan.

 

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