A giant cross will not help Pakistan’s Christian community

Published: April 18, 2015
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The Henry Gill family is financing the construction of a 140-foot-tall cross in one of the cities oldest Christian cemeteries. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Ever since the last two devastating church attacks in Peshawar and Lahore, the pressing issue of minority rights has received increased attention. The government’s futile attempts to provide a safe haven for the state’s minorities have been all in vain.

In the wake of this pursuit, yet another effort is being carried out to assure that the minorities are considered equal inhabitants of this country. A 140-feet tall cross is being constructed in one of Karachi’s oldest Christian cemeteries, which is also claimed to be the largest across Asia. Financed by the Henry Gill family, the construction work is supervised by Parvez Henry Gill himself. The cross is expected to be completed in the next three months under the supervision of the architect Musa Gill.

“The image of Pakistan, as far as minorities are concerned, is really tarnished. We are trying to tell the world that there are good people here too,” says Parvez.

“We are trying to tell the world that there are good people here too.”

However, this made me question as to how setting up a holy symbol at a graveyard is an indicator of proving there are good people in this county. Of course there are good people who have always been supportive of the minorities, but how can putting up a cross depict that the nation as a whole is good and considerate towards minorities, or in specific, the Christian community?

To me, this step comes across as compensation for the recent cases of blasphemy which have made Pakistan the recipient of a lot of criticism and negativity from across the globe. The world views Pakistan as a terrorist-centric and terror-stricken country, a land where there is no place for the minorities; so how will erecting a religious symbol change anything?

Though I respect the opinion and goodwill of the doers, however, I believe that a giant cross would not grant any security or rights to the Christians in this country. In fact, this construction will provoke many anti-peace entities to wreak havoc and cause unnecessary problems in the country. The reason is simple; our precious land is not safe from ill-minded destructive souls.

Mosques and imambargahs are not secure, let alone churches and temples; they have been targeted and desecrated. Did we not mourn the deaths of those innocent souls who were just offering prayers? So how can we expect a holy sanctuary of a minority to be safe in Pakistan – that too something as prominent as this cross?

Christians were targeted in the past and will continue to be targeted in the future, based on whatsoever reason. A cross as a symbol cannot prevent them from being targeted. Sometimes, too much attention is not a good thing. There has to be some other way for the government to express their concern and support towards minorities. One of the apprehensions experienced on behalf of the Christian community is that once the cross is erected, many religious bigots may feel threatened and there may be acts of destruction or vandalism towards the property.

Their fears are not ill-formed.

The minorities in Pakistan are already suffering from the trauma of the recent church attacks and many of the bereaved families harbour hard feelings against the government. Now if this cross is desecrated or vandalised, it would worsen the already existing animosity between the targeted community and the leadership. So I see this new idea developing as yet another incident of injustice, and a case of blasphemy waiting to happen.

Also, what about the other minorities? Why only make an effort towards Christians? Why not create a prominent holy monument for other religions too? This will further create a gap amongst the people and will harden relations between Christians and followers of other religions. Our nation is vulnerable to all sorts of terrorist activities; therefore, the agenda here should not be to propagate the rights of minorities by putting up holy monuments, but to contemplate the possibilities of phasing out differences between the majority and the minority communities.

It is pertinent to inculcate a mind-set of being Pakistani first, and ‘Muslim,’ ‘Christian,’ or ‘Hindu’ second. As long as this mentality of segregation will prevail in our country, nobody can fully and freely practice their rights. As a Christian, I request my brothers to focus on strengthening our faith and belief rather than emphasising on constructing holy symbols. The same resources can be utilised towards uplifting the Christian community in many other ways.

We are in dire need of standing together as a nation, and I do not foresee that until we all unite, keeping our religious differences aside and coming together as citizens of one country.

Farah Samuel

Farah Samuel

Environmentalist based in Peshawar. Christian by faith and a proud Pakistani. She tweets as @farahsamuel. twitter.com/farahsamuel

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

  • Roy Raden

    I think the only hope for Pakistani Christians and Hindus is to migrate to India. As the Pakistani Hindus have. I can say on behalf of the community that there is no safer place for minoritiesRecommend

  • Faizan

    You’re right. The govt. needs to stand up against this injustice making crosses and churches wont solve anythingRecommend

  • privali

    Why don’t they try to do it in Quebec?Recommend

  • http://www.christiantimes.pk/ Christians in Pakistan

    Good to hear this News but Farah i am not agree with your statment that “The government’s futile attempts to provide a safe haven for the state’s minorities have been all in vain” Punjab Police Private tourther cells are full fill with Christians of Yohanabad.Recommend

  • http://www.christiantimes.pk/ Christians in Pakistan

    Mr Roy, We Pakistani Christian are not mental. Christians are also Not safe in Your Country.Recommend

  • ab1990

    we dont need pakistani christians in india . They can migrate to any of the other 100 christian countries around the world.Recommend

  • khan

    you just through a right glance at a context of monumentRecommend

  • GEORGE BOOTA

    The writer has expressed very well and with an open mind. Truly speaking, in the current scenario of Pakistan, putting up giant size cross is provoking and inviting trouble for the Christian community. The terrorist elements have already desecrated places of worships and this sacred symbol would also be instrumental in destroy those resting in peace in this huge cemetery. George Younas BootaRecommend

  • Swipe

    ok fine, migrate to India. But theres still over 400 million who live in poverty, and more than half dont have access to a toilet. And the rape culture is huge, and sanctioned by certain politicians, senior figures….Recommend

  • El Cid

    You are kidding. Bharat-India is a slaughter house for minorities: Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.Recommend

  • Arslan Arif

    I think Farha Samuel is absolutely right in his opinion. This giant symbol of cross can’t mitigate the sorrows of vulnerable people especially Christians. Segregation is the root of evil in societ and government must work for it. Christians are equal citizens by all definition. It is duty of incumbents to provide security to all religious sanctuarice. Recommend

  • Parvez

    As long as we keep looking towards Saudi Arabia for succour and keep aping their misguided ideology……..matters, not only for the non-Muslims, but for Muslims who are considered ‘lesser Muslims ‘ will never improve.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    Perhaps the same goes for the shia community.Recommend

  • Rohaan Nadeem
  • GEORGE BOOTA

    Farah Samuel speaks very clearly and in the true context. In the current scenario of Pakistan putting up giant cross is openly provoking and inviting more trouble for the Christians here. It is better to spend resources to educate the people on the correct meaning of the cross and the message of salvation for the mankind it brings. Some political pundits would definitely capitalize both ways by saying ‘ look at the freedom Pakistan gives to minorities or This is damaging the Islamic republic of Pakistan’Recommend

  • AJ

    Show me one evidence of recent attacks. The latest reports all turned out to be law and order issues such as drunk man throwing stones, fired employee stealing etc,Recommend

  • Abdul

    Farah, my sincere advise to you as an Indian who happened to be born Muslim but chose to renounce all faith, get out while you can. Things are going to get extremely bad in your country.Recommend

  • indian atheist

    Can a Christian become the president of Pakistan? I think not.. Then on what basis is the writer implying that Christians are treated equally in Pakistan? Muslims will always intimidate and squeeze the life out of the minorities who had the misfortune of being born in their nations.. I appreciate parvez gills guts for standing up for what he believes in.. Recommend