Saturday, 31 May 2014

New ideas, new players

By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has arguably has become the worst place on Earth for Christian while there are others like Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan etc. other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ. In 1973; when Islam become national religion and Bhutto’ government seized Christian’s schools and replaced their teachers and curriculum. Than it was imposed that Quran is required to be read and recited in all classes at all levels. Meanwhile, it is illegal for Christian to touch or own the Quran. Now, 40 years later, Bhutto, Pakistan Peaples Party – PPP chief’s plan was successful. Literacy in Pakistan is around 50%, but literacy for Christian is less than 10%. There is only a handful of Christians who work for the government at any level. Mostly Christians are reduced to living in slums, where they are routinely either demolished or their housed frequently set ablaze. But this is not the worst of what happens to Christians here. The worst is that their children, particularly young girls are the targets of their violence. Girls are kidnapped, raped and forced to convert to Islam. Young girls that refuse to convert and marry are beaten, physically tortured and either killed or simply raped and left to die naked in the wilderness. It is unfortunate that Christians do not have access to the legal system in Pakistan. Police arrest them for any crime they are accused of and they are really only accused of one crime: blasphemy, which carries an automatic death sentences. Judges in Pakistan know that if they ever find a Christian innocent of blasphemy that the judge and his family will be murdered. In the last few years blasphemy charges against Christian have become more common. Christians are frequently falsely accused of blasphemy, arrested and their houses are seized. Judges don’t want to hear these cases, and lawyers are afraid for their lives.
Today in Pakistan, Christian’s children do not have access to read. They cannot afford high tuition fee in private schools and government school curriculum is changed according to Islam’s teachings. It is nearly impossible for Christians to get an education, and there are no jobs for them. Parents are afraid to teach their children the basics of the gospel – out of fear that their children may say something that will get them killed. In 2011 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom completed a study of the educational structure in Pakistan. They reported that “all” of the public school teachers they interviewed taught their students that jihad was the violent struggle against infidels and that is “compulsory” for Muslims to be violent toward Christians (see pg. 16 of that report). Pakistan is a nation where nearly all – if not all – of the teachers, at every level of education, teach their children to kill Christians.

Talent, Time and Treasure:
The threat matrix for Pakistan religious minorities has changed radically and it has become a useless routine to condemn the act of violence and injustice. So we need to bring change, bringing time, and talent and treasure altogether. Let’s it take in such a way, two nation theory; we as a Christian; are totally different from Muslims. We pray in a different way, we believe in trinity, our ceremonial way is different, we believe and respect God but in a different way; they do. We respect and honor prophets but we are not too rigid and thus Muslims believe that we have insulting approach which is not true thus they consider it blasphemy. With the passage of the time, new, talented and competent young leader raised up in this arena. Albert David is one young emerging politician with his platform “Pakistan United Christian Movement - PUCM”. He has proven track record of his success in his field and ambition to bring change. Sajid Ishaq, a young social activist and politician gives the impression to teach the youth for better future. Sohail Johnson, chairman Sharing Life Ministry, brilliant person, companionate and is doing wonderful job in humanitarian field. Farrukh H Saif, chief of World Vision in Progress - WVIP has been rescuing the persecutors for years. Pakistan Christian Congress – PCC, a political party came in with new changes and working on unity. Tahir Naveed Chaudhry has recently formed a new political party. Naila J Dayal, chairperson Christian Progressive Movement, has been working for years. And there are so many human right activists and politicians working within their resources. The keystone for raising efficiency has to tie up in cord; often even the threat of competition spurs innovation, so allowing more players in is a win-win for all. Let’s face it, given the challenges that face Christian today in Pakistan.
Pakistan used to have a noticeable Christian presence. I urge these and others zealous for the protection of Christianity in the country. Let’s join hands together, putting our time, talent and treasure together and start join effort against this malice, injustice and discrimination in the society. I would humbly request to our religious leadership to act like Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matthew 14:19). Once Jesus has blessed you and now it’s your responsibility to give to the people. Please deliver:                  

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Mera Qatil he mera munsif hy (My killer is my judge)

ISLAMABAD: The threat matrix for Pakistan religious minorities has changed radically now after the Pakistan Muslim League (N) came in power. There was numerous blasphemy cases registered in the Punjab province during the rule PML-N regime in the past and the same practice was on. A Christian family including children and women were burnt alive and the Christian colony was set ablaze in Gojra city in 2009. In the city of province Punjab, Sangla Hill and Joseph Colony, Lahore; the same practice seen, blasphemy case were registered for their vested interest but no action is being taken against the forged complainants. 
This is not the end, as soon as the PML-N government came in power in the federal, Islamabad slum settlements were cautioned to vacate and were considered encroachment. The inhabitants were there for four decades. Now officials in capital of Punjab province, Agency, along with the police from different stations reached at the Katchi abadi in Qaziabad, Gulshan-i-Ravi, with bulldozers and excavators in the early morning. The workers began demolishing houses amid cries of women and children. Punjab government seems in hurry now to crush the Christians during their rule. The colony was reportedly built some 40 years ago and during the Nawaz Sharif’s first government, he then promised them that no one would force them to leave their houses. But during his this rule he has lifted them all. 
Recently Islamabad High Court’s Justice Shaoukat Aziz Siddique had directed Capital Development Authority – CDA to clear the slum settlements from the Capital, Islamabad. Let me give you Urdu poetry; [Mera qatil he mira munsif hy, kia mery haq mein faisla dy ga]. (My killer is my judge, will he decide anything in my favor)      
The case is not related to Christian only but others are suffering too. A university professor was entangled in blasphemy case and his attorney was killed. A blasphemy case was registered against 65 protesters in his favor. Shaista Wahidi (Geo TV anchor), her TV owner and two partakers were had to flee from the country due to this reason. A man in small district, Shariq pur; accused of blasphemy case was killed during his judicial investigation. A foreign national non-Muslim doctor was killed during his visit to Pakistan.    
Pakistan is a country where majority of its population is living below poverty line. Unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and terrorism are common problems. But religious minorities face discriminatory laws and other issues as well. Christians in the country stands nowhere, if live along seasonal drainage or kitchi abadi, it is considered encroachments, if take a sip of water, then they consider untouchable and sent to jail for life imprisonment; which is the basic reason with Asia Bibi has been suffering for years. Lahore High Court is hanging her case hearing with lame less excuse. Another pregnant woman was killed right under the nose of Lahore High Court, Lahore. Law and order situation is beyond control.  
The problem with Pakistani Christian is unity. Fortunately or unfortunately; they are all born leaders and do not want to sit with others. I personally feel this is basic reason of their sufferings. During the last two decades; Hindu minority have proven that they are the largest minority in the country. None of Christian parliamentarian has spoken even a single word for their favor in NA. There are two mummies seen who always seen roaming about here and there during the session in recent one year.
Unfortunately we don’t have any national level regular platform to highlight the issues, national papers and private TV channels don’t give ample space for Pakistani Christians issues. Although there are some private TV channels running under Christian religious administration but again I would say, these people have made it family ownership and promoting their families instead raising real cause and issues Christians are facing and we can’t highlight the actual issues. Their agenda is totally different.   
Religious leaders and social activists are running for their vested interests. Many Christian families are suffering in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. UNHCR is not paying heed to these asylum seekers. They have reportedly paid in hundred thousand for immigration. Most of the Christians are shifting to other countries and rests do not find any future in the country. Are we equal citizen; If not should we stand for our rights? 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Each one – Teach one

Creation of the Country:
Pakistan came into being in 1947 under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah had repeatedly promised equality of citizenship, but this promise was not kept by his successors. Pakistan became an Islamic Republic in 1956, making Islam the source of legislation and cornerstone of the national identity, while guaranteeing freedom of religion and equal citizenship to all citizens. With the governments of Z. A. Bhutto and Zia-ul-Haq more inflexibly Islamic laws transformed Pakistan.
During the regime of these two rulers, Christians of the country were divergent. This is evidenced in cities established by the British, such as the port city of Karachi, where the majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Pakistan’s largest church, stands, and the churches in the city of Rawalpindi, where the British established a major military cantonment. European and wealthy native Christians established colleges, churches, hospitals and schools in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. Roman Catholics and other protestant denominations have organized themselves throughout the country. Politically, groups like the Pakistan Christian Congress - PCC have arisen. Christians had second largest educational and health chain in the country. The civil dictator Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had been engaged in re-action and nationalized Christian’s health and educational institutions.
Constitutional Discrimination:
Z. A. Bhutto introduced discriminatory laws against religious minorities. He declared Ahamdis as non-Muslims, thus it opens new doors to constitutional discrimination. Non – Muslims are barred from becoming the President or Prime Minister. Furthermore, they are barred from being judges in the Federal Shariat Court, which has the power to strike down any law deemed un-Islamic. Chief justice of the Supreme Court, chief of Army Staff and chief minister and governorship is not mentioned in the constitution but it is unseen restriction.  Several hundred Christians along with Muslims themselves have been persecuted under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and death sentences have been handed out to at least a dozen. Force conversion is on; while conversion to other faiths than Islam is not prohibited by law. Blasphemy law is widely used for vested interested. Misuse of blasphemy laws become practice. Churches and Christian’s colonies are attacked and set ablaze. Thus Pakistan becomes a state of perpetual fear for minorities.
Division among Christians created:
With the start of new era, President (ex) Parvez Musharaf introduced new electoral system for minorities. This opens new doors to corruption; affluent members from the minorities become parliamentarians. Minorities are divided into two groups, some are in favor of the present electoral system, and others are struggling to restore the democratic electoral system for minorities. Muslim political parties have introduced “Minorities Wings” and thus they have created division. The selected segment follows the same agenda of their mother party. This clearly means they are not representing their community but their lords.
Flimsy Dwellers:
Most of the Christians in the country are living below poverty line. Mostly live in slums, known as “katchi abadis” and often euphemistically called “colonies” are tucked into the corners of the big cities’ neat grid pattern. They house tens of thousands of people unable to afford the city’s high rents, in flimsy dwellings put up with concrete, bricks and sacking. Some are located on drainage cuts designed to channel away the heavy rains of the monsoon, and many have no access to electricity, gas or main water supplies. These poor people can afford tuition fees, so their children remain uneducated. Ironically Christian institutions instead paying attention towards deserving students, they expel them from their institutions. According to the data given by social activist, in Rawalpindi district only more than 30 students were expelled this year due to non-payment of the tuition fee. Still Christian organization claim that they are serving poor Christians. Sources said that some Korean organization was interested to establish an institution to educate Christian students, but due to the self-centeredness of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance–APMA’s leadership, they rolled back their plan. This attitude shows their commitment towards Christian betterment. It is observed during the last decade that every third self proclaimed chairman with some financial background has started “face book” political party. Honestly speaking, if they contribute in community development instead self projection.

Since Christians are being persecuted under the severe condition, all prominent Christian leadership should stand shoulder to shoulder to each other. Each and every in charge of these parties should take responsibility to teach at least one Christian student for better future generation. Educational institutions with religious back ground should take in deserving student. There are some individuals and organizations are doing do well. But if the available resources are divided and destroyed into non-productive business, the result would be same.