Keeping faith in the face of hardships in Pakistan

Published 02 March 2014  |  
AP

Recently in the city Lahore in Pakistan, the Christians made a protest in front of the press club against the abduction of a Christian young girl by a rich landowner. After the abduction, the girl was forced to marry him and coerced to accept Islam. The girl's family has lodged a complaint with the local police station that their girl was abducted and eventually was married forcibly, and the police on the other hand try to pursue the case in the presence of an influential landowner.

This is not a new occurrence to me or to many Pakistani Christians as there have been various similar incidents happened in the past when Christian girls have been threatened, kidnapped and then forced to marry accepting Islam. It goes like this: hate Christians but take their women. For the sake of lust, disrespect and the power some Muslim men grab the Christian women. The same misfortune and trauma Hindu women also have to face in Sindh.

Why has it been happening? There are some arguments that can be taken into account to find the answer: a decade ago, the most common profession for the Christian was sweeper or janitor. Living in slums, passing on the legacy to the next generation to become sweeper, some accepted that fate while few with a vision tried to come out of that profession, worked hard, got an education and ended up in decent jobs other than being janitor.

The lack of resources, education and financial constraints gave that impression to the Muslims around them that they were the easy targets to win the souls mostly through coercive measures. Moreover, the inferiority complex which the Christians have more in this situation as compared to those Muslims living in the same worse conditions strengthened the Muslims' approach to proceed with their plans. And in Pakistan the girls are preyed upon. The lack of government support to the Christians has been visible in the past especially in these cases. There is a lack of cooperation from the police authorities and the favour the other side for being a Muslim.

There are few other Christians too who are not poor but educated and rich, yet, are also converted to Islam. They are seen in every walk of life and one most popular conversion, which had made news for many days in Pakistan was of a cricketer, Mohammad Yousuf. He joined the Pakistani team in 1998, belonging to a very poor Christian family ,he himself was a tailor prior to becoming cricketer. Yousuf Youhana his erstwhile name before becoming Mohammad Yousaf, was the pride of many Christians as he was the leading batsman in the Pakistani cricket team and the only Christian to become the captain of the team.

Yousuf was the fourth Christian in the Pakistani team after Wallis Mathias, Antao D'Souza and Duncan Sharpe. The other three remained Christian during their career while Yousuf who joined the cricket team in 1998 as a Christian defected to Islam in 2005. Yousuf had already earned fame and money when he left Christianity. However, the team had more religious proclivity than before when Yousuf joined. He also started to join his mates in the religious gatherings, which later resulted in his conversion to Islam.

Yousuf's defection to Islam had left the Christians of Pakistan in extreme confusion. No one had ever expected that a strong practising Christian as he was, making the sign of the Trinity while entering the cricket grounds, would leave his identity not in poverty but after becoming rich.

The challenges are there for every Christian while living in Pakistan. The blasphemy laws are not the only threats but living along with the Muslims sometimes who are not ready to accept and respect other faiths can be a big snare to Christians' lives. The writ of the state is challenged every time when it has failed to provide security to the lives of minorities in Pakistan. How helpless and grieved the family of that abducted girl would be who has now a new battle to fight. What if their girl is recovered then who will provide the guarantee of the family's security? What about the lost honour that would never be brought back? How much fear this has already cast on other Christians?

Unless such actions are reprimanded and dealt severely by the state, the Christians will keep going through these traumas just because of their faith. The state with its actions has to change the mindset which is not ready to accept Christians as the citizens of Pakistan. They need and deserve the same rights to exercise their faith, the same as the majority enjoys. Pakistan cannot be a Muslim nation by force.

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