Christians living near the famous Shabqadar Fort celebrated Easter with special prayers at a small church on Sunday. However, some feel there is little to celebrate, as Christians in the area are being marginalised on multiple fronts.
“We have lived with our Muslim brothers in harmony for over a century,” said 60-year-old Patris Masih, a local religious leader.
Nasir Gill is a member of the district minority committee and formerly a councillor on Tehsil Municipal Committee. He also spoke of the harmony once shared with Muslims.
According to Gill, 40 Christian families lived in Shabqadar while 50 resided in the rest of Charsadda district.
“Yet, Christians do not even have a graveyard to bury their dead.” Previously, a graveyard was built on three kanals of land in the bazaar near the shrine of Gazi Baba. It was given to the community by former politician, the late Mukaram Khan, whose family has now allowed encroachers to take over the land.
Community leaders have asked the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony to demarcate this land for their graveyard. “Nothing has been done so far,” added Gill.
Another Christian leader, Shamon Masih, demanded the construction of a separate colony. “The land acquired by our ancestors before independence is not sufficient to house us now.”
Shamon further complained their children studied alongside Muslims without a separate subject of religious ethics designed for them. “We want a missionary school for them to study according to their own faith.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2014.