Don’t Christians in Pakistan deserve a church?

Published: July 11, 2014
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For a community that is self-sufficient, encourages education and is an inspiration for others, I do not think a church is too much to ask for. PHOTO: REUTERS

This Good Friday, on April 18, 2014, I met a wonderful Christian housewife named Seema, in Lassori. Christians make up 1.6% of Pakistan’s population, and have been serving in every profession. Seema explained that for the last 60 years, 58 Christians have been working as farm labourers in Lassori Tobatake Singh. She and her husband, Allah Ditta, work in the fields and own two goats and a cow.

She explained that the entire street comprised of 40 houses on each side and that all the residents present were Christians. Her parents had migrated during the British colonial rule, when the latter allotted their land in Jalinder, India to other landowners.

Allah Ditta further added that, in Lassori, Muslims and Christians lived very happily together and there was a sense of brotherhood between the two religious communities. He explained that despite incidents like Joseph Colony and the Gojra tragedy, the Christians of Lassori never faced any animosity from the local Muslims.

Seema is a mother of eight, lives in a small, clean house made of clay. The house was large enough to accommodate approximately 20 people, but it was in their little house that the entire Christian community of Lassori congregated for praying this Good Friday.

Confused as to why the congregational prayer took place in the house and not a church, I put forward the question to Naveed Prest, a local from a nearby village, Miankot. Naveed explained that an affluent member of the Christian community had donated a piece of land in Lassori but the residents did not have sufficient resources or funds to build a church on it. I suggested that they approach a particular political party and through their affiliation have a church built. But because the residents were all affiliated with different political parties, he was of the opinion that collaboration was impossible.

At this point, I contacted Colonel (R) Sardar Ayub Khan Gadhi, a member of the Provincial Assembly, and asked him when our Christian brothers and sisters in Lassori could get a church. He responded that no one from the community had informed him of this issue. He also stated that to resolve the issue the residents of Lassori would have to identify a piece of government-owned land and file an application with the District Coordinator Officer to have it allotted for the purpose of constructing a church. He explained that politicians did not have the authority to fulfil such public demands and for that the residents would have to approach the government.

Naseem, a mother of three and labourer by profession, said that because of stagnant water, the entire street was enveloped in unbearable stench and this had already caused numerous health issues. And even then she said,

“All we need is a church in our own Lassori.”

Mr Hafiz Khalid Hanif called the local Christians his brothers, having lived with them since before partition. He said that their demand was very basic; they required a place of worship exactly like the way Muslims required a mosque to pray.

“I think the government should do something and provide a church since it is their right as citizens of Pakistan.”

While I was there, I noticed that the people of Lassori, Muslims and Christians, were very particular about education. They said that in order to get a good life, good education was key and they wanted all the kids to acquire an education before they started earning. Despite their deplorable financial situation, their keenness towards education was very inspirational.

Seema explained that many of the children who were educated here became teachers and some even went abroad for further studies who now earn very well for their families

For a community that is self-sufficient, encourages education and is an inspiration for others, I do not think a church is too much to ask. It is their right, they deserve it and I hope this year, they will be able to celebrate Christmas at a church and not in Seema’s house.

Sadia Widad

Sadia Widad

A radio journalist who has worked in development media sector as a media trainer and mentor. She tweets as @swidad (twitter.com/swidad)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • mimi sur

    Rubbing salt to injuries of Christians .Recommend

  • mimi sur

    Rubbing salt to injuries of Christians .Recommend

  • Secular

    in most parts of the country, Muslims also build mosques by the donations and further run these mosques by donations..
    Christian community can also do that.. And as far as the government is concerned, there is no way that they are going to build a church for 1.6% because they are not paying any heed to 98%.Recommend

  • N.Sid

    Misleading title. There might be no church in Lassori. But there are hundreds in Pakistan.
    http://nativepakistan.com/churches-in-pakistan-photos-and-list/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_churches_in_Pakistan#KarachiRecommend

  • نائلہ

    They deserve first and foremost to be called Paksitanis ahead of Christians. And yes, they do deserve a church. Christian majority countries allow mosques to be build there, so we should have no problems with it. Recommend

  • Hammad Mian

    Why does ET always choose the subject of Topic in negative meanings ?Recommend

  • Sami

    Your article heading is just an attention seeking and nothing else. Your yourself stated that it is the financial crunch affecting the building of Church otherwise no animosity exists whatsoever.
    It is not the job of the government to build Mosques and Churches. Even for the Majority Muslims Government dont pay any funds to build mosques. Especially in Pakistan where Shias, Sunnis, Brelvis, Deobandis etc live if local governments will start financing every religious center then it will create other problems.
    If today government will fund one church then the next day some other religious group will ask for the same help and this will start a new tug of war between different religious sects and within the minorities.Recommend

  • kiyani

    Minorites have equal rights for worship nd thz mater will be taken in serious terms by minorites mna’s nd mpa’s in asemblies
    Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    So speaks some one whose entire reason for being on this site is to bash Islam as much as possible! Since You are so concerned with the plight of Christians please provide justice to the victims of the 2008 Orissa riots or how about the Australian missionary who was burned alive with his sons.
    ET please publish for a balanced interpretation.Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    Just wanted to mention a few aspects which I found odd as a Christian, albeit an Indian one.

    Firstly, churches are usually not built on land acquired from the government. Usually the community or the church in a nearby town or city acquires the land.

    Secondly in this case the land seems to have been donated, but there is lack of funds. i find this surprising because the church in the nearby main city should usually be able to fund one from Sunday collections.

    Nevertheless the fact is that according to Mathew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

    A church can be anywhere where two or more Christians gather. A structure is not important.Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    Yes they do, but this is Pakistan. Ahmedias are the real Muslims, not Sunnis. Ahmedias will have no issue in building Church or Hindu temple.Recommend

  • doesnt mattter

    build hospitals and educational institutions. That will be more beneficial for people rather than churches, mosques or temples.Recommend

  • abhi099

    they dont deserve. As an indian even I dont like to see christianity in my country after 200 years of slavery. I respect christians in other countries except in my country.
    No church must be allowed to be built anywhere in any non christian country unless there is a non christian holy temple,gurudwara,mosque etc is allowed to be built in vatican city.
    Christian evengelical ngo’s and organisations have been infiltrated by american evangelicals who are spearing hate against non christians on africa and in other non christian countries like mine and others so that they can convert people and make them pay money to the vatican and their churches.Recommend

  • Farhan Chaudhry

    MPA is right they have to go to AC or DCO to get govt land for the church if they don’t have resources.

    In my village 20-25% people are Christians and some of them working in the army or doing govt jobs n some moved to islamabad and lahore for better jobs.

    We used to had interfaith harmony meeting at our place whenever required but generally I have never seen people fighting over religion in my village and they have their own church in the village and they use loud speakers as well and nobody have an issue, I have mentioned loud speakers because I have seen our journalists claiming that loud speaker use is not allowed anywhere in Pakistan to non muslim community which is wrong.Recommend

  • Salman Khan

    @abhi099:disqus wow salute to ur thinking but last time i checked India was a Secular state with no religion at all …… Christian in India have every right to live happily there …… This is the very reason that our Father of the nation MR. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave full rites to every religion in Pakistan to worship freely and u knw what ur are a racist ok hell thank u ! Jesus Christ i m not an Indian and still proud that i belong to country where people take us as a brother we fought together in war we teach together in school hell we work in every walk of life together …….Recommend

  • abhi099

    for me islam=christianity=judaism. Same god different prophets. I am not a fan of either islam or christianity.

    But I respect jews since they didnt harm india in any way.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Muslims do not require a mosque to pray, they can pray anywhere. Mosque is just a facilator.Recommend

  • Basit

    I think its a need of hour that we or our government must look all these issues not only for the sake of Christians or any other minority but also for the humanity. Unfortunately we are suffering a tough time as a nation but we are also striving for change and so called revolution. so in change or revolution our political parties should also include the basic needs of our poor people, along with other agendas. I think Humanitarian organisations in Pakistan only start their projects after big disasters or big human losses.
    As a journalist, its a great effort by the writer to highlight such issues. Now we must think about it.Recommend

  • vinsin

    They are already provided justice.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_violence_in_Odisha

    Now can you provide justice to your minorities and tell exactly what have you done to them.Recommend

  • vinsin

    India is not a secular state, it’s constitution is. India muslims are opposing human rights. And still your minorities are wiped out and you keep blaming them for blasphemy.Recommend

  • vinsin

    problem is missionary not Christianity.Recommend

  • vinsin

    You are 100% right that government has no role to play in building religious places for worship.Recommend

  • vinsin

    By that logic hindus should be allowed to make temples in mecca because they allowed mosques in their holy places.Recommend

  • pravinpatil41

    Pakis tryin hard to be secular.Recommend

  • Khurram Shahzad

    A very good narration of the Christians’ lives in rural Pakistan. We need to highlight such issues to make Pakistan a better living place for all communities and minorities. Indeed a good work and research by the writer.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    And how many Hindus live in Mecca? I have no problems with it though. Recommend

  • azam

    excellent piece. Christian should have their own worship place/Church, as a Muslim I’m strong supporter of this just demand of Christians.Recommend

  • ISmail

    I live in Pehswar provincial capital of most troubled area of Pakistan. We faced greatest number of bomb blasts and terror attacks than any other areas of the Pakistan. We have experienced a number of attacked on our Mosques and every one condemns but “Once a blast occurs in KOHATI CHURCH”. Believe me we muslims and every Pakistani specially people at Peshwer were more concerned about this attack than any attack on mosques or Markets, We helped our Christians brothers and condemned this blast. Memeber from every society visited Christians places and almost every politician and party heads visited hospitals .Students at Pehswar raise huge amount of funds for Church victims and i saw a national spirit and feels proud too be a Pakistani and a Pathan indeed. Christains at Pakistan are enjoying their rights.Recommend

  • Nizam Uddin Raiyan

    I have never seen any new church or other religious place being build. I think their population is not on increase. Recommend

  • Ismail

    I we can see the history of our country we will clearly find this factor thts no governs support the minorities even their legal rights and I never seen that govt made worship places for minorities ,even some of us can treat them like animals .Recommend

  • observer

    In Saudi Arabia no church, temple, synagogue etc. allowed, In fact, they prohibit non-muslims from praying even in their homes and confiscate religious material at the airport. Religion of peace, tolerance, openness and magnanimity? Though temples and churches are burned and destroyed in Pakistan there is no law to prohibit them as in Saudi Arabia.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Let’s give the religious minorities equal rights. Muslims build their mosques themselves, so should the christians build their churches. Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Naila, Christian countries allow construction of mosques, they don’t build the mosques from public funds Recommend

  • vinsin
  • ptr

    not they are not’Recommend

  • نائلہ

    How many mosques are there in the Vatican? Recommend

  • Iftekhar Khokhar

    Religious minorities should be given full liberty to practise their faith in Pakistan. Islam is a religion of peace, love, harmony, tolerance, service to humanity & coexistence. Those involved in violations of afore-mentioned golden principles are rendering disservice to the religion.Recommend

  • Muhammad Jamal Riaz

    surely they do as citizens of Pakistan to have free environment to practice their religion nobody can stop them …………Recommend