If you dare to raise your voice against the hostilities and ill-treatment Christians are enduring, it would either be declared as ‘blasphemous’ or you would be labelled as an agent of the firangi
by Adil Shahzeb
I have received tremendous feedback for my last article, “Pakistan, the game of religious bigotry” (Daily Times, November 10, 2012), but one email in particular has compelled me to touch on the challenges faced by the Christian community in Pakistan. I had mentioned Christians just once in my last article, but not enough about the biased and highly unfair treatment that they face throughout their lives. In Pakistan’s religious bigotry, the most deprived of all are the Christians, the ‘minority’ that only gets media attention if accused of ‘blasphemy’ or as a Muslim convert. According to the UK-based Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, “Christians in Pakistan are illiterate, suffering in extreme poverty and unemployment among Christians has increased to an unprecedented level.” The statistical data indicates that only six percent have primary school education; four percent of Christians have high school education, one percent of Christians have college education, and next to no presence in higher studies and professional education.
I had no idea that my article in Daily Times would take me right back to my childhood to reflect upon the ills of our society. Now that I am writing I am reminded of a classmate, the most bullied child at school, who was not even allowed to sit with the other children or to be precise, no other pupil would prefer to willingly share a desk with him unless as a punishment by the teacher for not doing his homework. He was the only Christian child in the entire school who would stand with his lunch box in a corner of the playground during recess and was never allowed by the other children to play with them. For obvious reasons he failed all of his exams three years in row until he was forced to leave. Back then I never understood how deprived he was, but now I really feel for the mental torture and the traumatised childhood he endured. Of course it does not matter at all in Pakistan what Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Right states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
It is not only how an underprivileged Christian child is treated at school. When he grows up in our highly radicalised society he is told: the only job that suits you is to clean the streets of Pakistan as that was how your forefathers served this country. And it does not stop there; you also will not have a say in the country’s mainstream affairs including politics; you would hardly be considered for any white-collar job, and last but certainly not the least, all your life your ‘non-Christian’ friends would look down upon you, and you would most probably be the victim of bullying forever. Even though your educational institutions and the broken society would only groom you as the next generation of lowly worker, if you somehow manage to grow up with a good education and competence, most of the jobs that you would opt for would be for non-Christians. However if despite that, you do manage to secure a decent job, you could face a similar hostile work environment that you went through at your school.