Pakistani Christians in search of a new homeland

(AP)
A Christian family rests in front of their destroyed house, after it was attacked by a mob in Gojra, Pakistan, Friday, Aug. 7, 2009

It happened during 1947 at the creation of Pakistan when the Christians decided to come and settle in Pakistan as their home country. Very proudly, the Christians call themselves Pakistanis.

Ever since the inception of the country, the Christians living there have contributed in all spheres of life, from education to health, to the armed forces, and they have always been renowned for the services they have offered in the fields they worked in.

They are always considered and proved with their work that they are as dedicated and honest just like any other Pakistani, and I remember quoting my boss on air that he found Christians more hardworking and dedicated than the Muslims.

The conditions have not been easy for Christians when it comes to living in Pakistan, as they have to face problems of discrimination, hatred and insults from the small scale to sometimes the large scale.

Besides all these problems, another mammoth problem started to hover over the Christians and this was the blasphemy laws. It is easy to implicate the Christians by alleging they have uttered objectionable words against the Holy Quran and prophet Mohammad. Their lives are ended and some are still fighting battles, like Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who was charged with blasphemy in 2009 and is still in prison, awaiting the outcome of the appeals process against her death sentence.

Despite having all the threats and troubles, the Christians still live and serve the country as a true patriot. However, some Christians who can't fight the battle to keep up with their faith while living in the country, where the majority are Muslims, have now thought of adopting the new way - that is to leave their motherland and go to another country where they can live the life of a free person.

I have come to know the heart-shattering stories of a few of the many families who have left Pakistan - astonishingly quite a few of them were not poor but were rich and had their own business or were doing high–profile jobs. Otherwise, how can a person even think of leaving their home and live in a foreign land where he might have to face not similar problems like Pakistan but different in nature? A new struggle indeed.

A Christian young man belonging to the city of Bahawalpur, Punjab, is now in the UK.

On condition of anonymity, he shared with me his reason for leaving Pakistan: "I was running my photography business earning good amount of money, owned a home too, but something went wrong all of a sudden when I saw a huge decline in my business."

He told me that an old friend of his in the police department informed him that there were some people living around him who didn't like him as they were jealous that how being Christians, his family was well-to-do and he himself had a sound business.

"I was attacked brutally once by the armed men, I had bruises all over my body. After few days, my older brother was also beaten severely," he explained.

He also depicted the scene when the armed men surrounded his home with the whole of his family inside. After that day, his family started living in another part of Pakistan. Even then, they faced many troubles and eventually they decided to leave Pakistan.

This is one of many accounts related to the Christians of Pakistan leaving their homeland in despair and in search of living a free and a normal life. But the life in the countries they are moving into, is not easy as well. The troubles and problems also accompany them there.

The other countries where the Christians of Pakistan are moving to find a refuge are Thailand and Sri Lanka, as going to European countries and even the USA requires a lot of money and the acquisition of the visa is tough in the case of Europe and the USA.

The option they are left with is to go to other countries where the acquisition of a visa is comparatively easy. As reported in the Colombo Gazette, the Catholic Church mentions that there are more than 600 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Sri Lanka. They have come there as they are persecuted and are facing different problems due to their faith in Pakistan.

The Christians coming to Sri Lanka and Thailand can't work until and unless they have a work visa. Consequently, they have to rely on the little amount of funds they carry after selling what they have in Pakistan which is also a rarity, or the support of local churches and Christians in these countries.

Junaid Saqib, who is also in Thailand amidst the threats he had to face in his home town Peshawar, Pakistan told me that the people go to churches, where they get not enough but small packages of food as there are so many people.
He also shared with me the problems of living and the new struggle they are going through. All of them have fled from Pakistan in fear and yet the life offers so many challenges to them afterwards.

"The Christians coming from Pakistan don't know what they are going to do here, they don't have jobs nor have enough funds to look after their needs. Most of them are poor and have left Pakistan to save their lives," Junaid told me.

He further expressed about the lack of health facilities for those who get sick and how it is even worse for the pregnant women, who don't have proper health care. He also expressed his opinion about the help provided by the UN:
"The UN helps only those who have the letters of the asylum, while those who have left the country in emergency out of fear and don't have that letter. What he would do?"Junaid said.

The burning of Christian villages, assaults, desecrating the churches and the Holy Bible have happened over the years in Pakistan. Therefore, the conditions in the homeland is bringing the Christians to the verge where they have to take this decision of leaving their motherland, which they have never thought of.

For those who are living there, despite many problems, they are as patriotic Pakistanis as any Muslim is. The history has proven it many times and the manifestation of their love and patriotism for Pakistan will always be there.

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