By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: Sehrish Ishfaq, 5, poor Pakistani Christian girl was drowned in the seasonal drainage; during the first moon soon rain in the federal capital. She found dead, the voice reiterated itself. How this could be possible? I shook my head in disbelief while speaking on the mobile phone. In state of disbelief I stood up, changed my clothes and went to see her. Her dead body was there, people around me were sad, her mother was crying. But this wasn't the first time. In fact, during the last years in the same days, two young Christians were drowned in French Colony, sector F-7 and I attended their funeral.
Couple of days before Eid (religious festivity after Ramazan), mob killed a member of a Ahamdi (who consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed) and two of her granddaughters and eight others were severely injured after another member was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook. The dead including a seven-year-old girl and her baby sister, the attacker after looting the valuables set 5 houses into fire.
Christians could count themselves among minorities that made up 15% of the population at pre-partition. Now minorities fall short of roughly around 5% of the country. The Christian community in Pakistan, roughly around 15 million, is the first largest religious minority present here. But the actual figure is never been given; because there is no census after 1998. Yet the minorities are being persecuted, targeted, slaughtered and killed, without mercy – just because our faith is not the same as that our killers’. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of Western churches. The silence has been nearly deafening. In this predominantly Muslim nation, religious extremism and resentment of the West contribute to violence against Pakistani Christians. We feel most of the time we are not equal. Not only equal, but the growing feeling is that we are not even wanted.
Some of the violence against Christians is directly related to the American-let war against Muslims in different countries like war in Afghanistan, Iraq and to some extant Israel war against Philistine, so has an expressly political motive. Months later the US-led coalition attacked Afghanistan in 2001, a grenade attack on a chapel inside a Christian Mission Hospital Taxila city killed four people.
If it is said that Shias are being attacked but the dynamic with that particular enmity is entirely different. Shias in Pakistan are seen as influential and high profile with positions in the ruling class and playing prominent role in the country. They are caught up in what many analysts call a proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Pakistani Christians evoke public sympathy and are not tools of a larger sectarian and ideological battle.
My concern is; what is the future of Christians in Pakistan? In fact, the right question is, do they have a future here at all?
Majority of the Pakistani Christians are living below poverty line residing in the slum areas across the country and around the seasonal drainage in the federal capital especially. Living with low income, they cannot afford school fees and thus their children remain uneducated. Many Christians suffer from grinding poverty. Education and employment discrimination leave them only the lowliest occupations. Many of them spend their lives in brickyards, within perilous distance of blazing hot kilns. These families are close to being slaves – bonded laborers – never able to work off the outrageous debts laid on them by Muslim landlords. Others find work as janitors or sewer workers. Their employers barely regard their Christian employees as human. Christian sanitation workers are the first ones sent into sewer trench lines, and usually without proper protection. Every year many Christian workers die from exposure to the toxic fumes. And their young girls work as maid and been raped by masters and then were forcefully converted to Islam.
Hundreds of the Christians’ students have not been promoted to next classes for their parents were unable to clear the dues at the schools in the twin city only. There could hundred thousand in the country. Sister Abida, head of the Saint Teresa High School, Rawalpindi has reportedly expelled 17 girls’ students for the school for their parents had not paid their school fee during this semester. This is missionary school, which aim should be to encourage poor Christian’s students to study. It is unfortunate that none of the priest has taken notice to it till I am writing these lines.
The situation becomes more terrible when so called social and religious reformers and Christian politicians living in and outside the country play with them. They receive huge funds from the West but deliver little and rests spend for their own luxury life. None of them has ever planned to bring economic and social revival for this most vulnerable community. Many talented young ones are wasting their lives with low income jobs and have no future. Shahroz Tabassum, son of Akram Masih, student of La Salle High School, Faisalabad was the top scorer securing 1073 marks in his Secondary School Examination this year. Many of the so called social activists like me have posted his picture on their timelines but no one has announced any scholarship to encourage him.
The US, EU and UK government funds seem directed to the Muslim regime to supporting the raise of Islamic militants to power. Even when aid is given to Pakistan, none ever reach the beleaguered Christian community. And sad to say, even the Christian human rights groups working in Pakistan seem to focus to hire Muslim employees. I wonder; what is future of the poor Pakistani Christians? Do they have any a future here? Is there anyone who listen the screams of the poor Pakistani Christians?