A giant cross will not help Pakistan’s Christian community
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.