Unequal citizens: No place for worship, no space to bury loved ones

Kallar Syedan’s Christians have to transport bodies of their loved ones to Rawat



The Christians of Kallar Syedan have no place for worship, neither a graveyard to bury their loved ones. They are left with no option but to transport their dead to Rawat, Pirwadhai and Gujar Khan for burial since the tehsil lacks a dedicated graveyard for the over 300 Christians who have been living in the area even before the creation of the country.

Few years ago, Bashir Masih had to take the body of his daughter for burial to the Christian cemetery in Rawat. While recalling the incident, he told The Express Tribune that to his utter dismay the local graveyard authorities were not present. After many hours of struggle, Bashir finally managed to give his daughter a burial in Gujar Khan.

Bashir said he had to go through the pain because there was no cemetery for the Christian community in Kallar Syedan.

Javed Masih, 40, another resident of Kallar Syedan, went through a similar ordeal. He said that when his wife died in 2007, he had no choice but to transport her body to Daultala, a small town in Gujar Khan for burial. He said that when few months ago his son died he buried him in Rawat.

Similarly when an elderly man from the community died they had to take him to Pirwadhai for burial.

He said that sometimes ago former town nazim Sohail Ashraf Malik allotted a piece of land for a Christian graveyard but the area was uneven and located near a sewerage line.

Amir Masih and Arshad Masih told The Express Tribune that though they lived in peace and harmony with the Muslim community, the area lacked a proper place of worship for the community. They use a rented accommodation as a place of worship.

Farooq Masih and his wife, Farzana said, “We are at a loss to understand why our basic problems are being neglected.” They said that they had to rush to different areas at the time of death of their loved ones for burial.

“We are human first and Christian later,” Farooq said.

Punjab Assembly member from the area and PML-N leader Qamarul Islam said that he was aware of the problems and had approached the Ministry of Religious Affairs for solution to their problems.

He said that soon the issue of a dedicated graveyard and Church for the Christian community would be solved.

Christian residents of the area said that if the government could spend Rs120 million on the renovation and carpeting of a four-kilometre-long road in the locality it could very well focus on the problems being faced by their community.

Muhammad Iqbal, a local cleric, when asked about the issue, said that the Islamic law did not allow burial of non-Muslims in a Muslim graveyard, adding however it was the responsibility of the state to build a cemetery for the non-Muslim communities.

Local leader of Pakistan People’s Party Muhammad Ijaz Butt claimed that no one brought up those issues with him when his party was in power.

He said that it was government’s responsibility to resolve the problems of the Christian community on an urgent basis.

When The Express Tribune spoke to the Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Tahir Khalil Sindhu and drew his attention towards the issue, the minister said that he was unaware of it.

Sindhu, who himself belongs to the Christian community, said that the residents of Kallar Syedan should contact him and apprise him of their problems. He assured that all grievances of the Christian community would be addressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th,  2015.



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