Pakistan’s Religious minorities: The significant “Other”


Source: Global Village Space

By Asif Aqeel, who is a prominent journalist, researcher and writer, and a vocal member of Pakistan’s Christian community. His area of work is “Marginality & Exclusion” with a focus on religious minorities. Asif has worked with the Daily Times and Express24/7 and several non-government organizations.

It was around 3 p.m. when two suicide bombers almost simultaneously entered the men’s and women’s campus of the International Islamic University in Islamabad on October 20, 2009. The first one, wearing a burqa and women’ sandals, shot the guard at the gate and then raced towards the cafeteria to cause maximum damage where about 150 girls were chatting and having lunch.

Sensing the danger, Parvaiz Masih, who had started work there only two weeks earlier, rushed towards the bomber and overpowered him only 10 feet outside the entrance of the cafeteria. Masih had no relatives inside the building and the students whose lives he was attempting to save, had never given him another look. He fitted into the discriminatory stereotype in Pakistan, a Christian working as a janitor, an occupation despised in the Indian subcontinent and assigned only to an outcast, yet it was he who responded bravely to the call of humanity.

Despite all the social, cultural and religious differences and repeated warnings from the bomber that he would blow himself up, Masih stood firm, insisting that he would not let him enter as “there were girls inside”. Masih’s bravery cost him his life, as the bomber triggered an explosion scattering both of their limbs all across the hall.

Two minutes later, the second bomber blew himself up outside the room of Shariah Law Department Chairman Prof. Dr. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. It was the first time in Pakistan, the terrorist’s specifically targeted women. The incident claimed five lives and Masih saved dozens.

Though Masih made many Pakistani Christians proud that day, his chivalry has long been forgotten, and there has been no recognition of his service to humanity by the state.

The tale of religious minorities, especially of Christians, is no different from that of Masih. Religious minorities have made invaluable contributions to the life of Pakistan, far greater than what they are recognized forgiven their percentages in Pakistan’s population.

Engineer designer James Strachan and architect Moses Somake are known for designing the beautiful buildings of Karachi. Similar expressions are noted by Mahim Maher when she wrote ‘how the Jews built Karachi, but we built shopping plazas on their synagogue’.

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