Christianity in Pakistan

Pakistan is a country which is rich in culture and religion. Islam is the major religion but along with it there are other minorities like Christians, Hindu, Sikh, Ahmadis, Chitrals, and Afghans etc. Christians are the largest minority community in Pakistan. They constitute about 1.6%of the Pakistan's population.


Christianity in Asia has its roots in the very inception of Christianity, which originated with Jesus Christ, and then spread through the missionary work of his apostles. Christianity first expanded in the Levant, taking roots in the major cities such as Jerusalem and Antioch. According to tradition, further eastward expansion occurred via the preaching of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who established Christianity in the Parthian Empire (Iran) and India.

According to Eusebius' record, the apostles Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia (modern Iran) and India. By the time of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (AD 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan(including parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity Christians form most of the non-Muslim minority in Pakistan and account for 1.5 percent of the total population. Most Christians in Pakistan come from an 'untouchable' perception about their background. The 1855 census shows there were no native Christians in present day Pakistan. With the efforts of missionaries, by 1881 there were only 3,912 native Christians who had come from various religious, social, economic and urban backgrounds. The urban and heterogeneous landscape of Christianity in Punjab changed to a homogenous and rural one after a man from an 'untouchable' background, identified only by a single name, Ditt, converted in the village of Shahabdike in Narowal in 1873. Ditt invited others to convert to Christianity to get rid of untouchability and caste disabilities. Ditt's caste rapidly responded to the call and the number of Christians dramatically swelled in central Punjab. The number increased from 3,912 in 1881 to 511,299 by 1941. Approximately 95 percent of the population in Pakistan is Muslim (Sunni and Shia). Groups composing five percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, Parsis/Zoroastrians, and Baha'is, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmedis and others. According to the ministry for minorities' affairs, Sikhs have approximately 30,000 adherents and Buddhists 20,000. According to a Parsi community centre in Karachi, the number of Parsis (Zoroastrians) dropped to 1,750 in 2010 as compared to 2,039 in June 2006. The number of Ahmedis in the country, according to the Jamaat-e-Ahmediyya, is nearly 600,000. Some tribes in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa practiced traditional animist religious beliefs and other religious groups include Kalasha, Kihals, and Jains. Less than 0.5 percent of the population, as recorded in the 1998 census, was silent on religious affiliation or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons claimed no religious affiliation. Historically, after partition other minorities in general while Christians in particular, were assigned occupations described as degrading and defiling, such as collecting carcasses, manually removing human excretion from lavatories, providing cheap labour in fields and executing criminals on the orders of the state. It was Tara Masih, a Christian, who carried out Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's execution in 1979 and Masih's father hanged independence movement hero Bhagat Singh in 1931. The Christians' representation in sanitation work, however, is above 80 percent. World Watch Monitor data states that about 6,000 out of 7,894 sanitation workers in the Lahore Waste Management Company are Christian and 768 out of 978 workers in the Quetta Municipal Corporation are Christian. Some 824 out of 935 sanitation workers in the Peshawar Municipal Corporation are Christian. Islamabad's Capital Development Authority has 1,500 sanitation workers and all of them are Christian. They also have a very high representation in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) province and Karachi municipal corporations in Sindh province. Regretfully, after the partition in 1947, the land left by the Sikhs in Punjab and Sindh was distributed among Muslim migrants arriving from India while Christians living on this land were evicted leaving nearly 300,000 Christians homeless and on the verge of starvation, the consequences of which are too horrible to imagine. After being internally displaced, the only option these 300,000 Christians had was to move to cities and work as sweepers, Over the years, they migrated to metropolitan areas where they illegally settled on government land without any basic amenities giving birth to hundreds of illegal settlements. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that exists only on paper in Pakistan. Each year, thousands of Christians suffer at the hands of religious bigots who use blasphemy as an excuse to ruin their life. Christian girls are increasingly being forced to convert to Islam. According to Aurat Foundation's (a Pakistani local NGO) report on July 13, 2015, around 1,000 girls are forced to convert to Islam every year in Pakistan. The victims of these forced conversions are largely girls from the Pakistani Christian and Hindu communities. Punjab province has become a hub of forced conversion. Every time a case of gross injustice is reported in the media while the victim remains without justice. Nonetheless, on the eve of Christmas, the community in Pakistan gears up to celebrate Christmas just like millions of other Christians all over the world. A Christmas tree, which is considered a main symbol of the Christmas celebration, creates more charisma for the festivity of Christmas with its colorful decorative look. Youngsters and children become excited while waiting for Santa Claus in his vibrant outfit of red. Groups of young boys and girls prepare carols to sing on Christmas day. Women at home cook delicious food for family and friends. Gifts are wrapped to share joy and exchange best wishes with loved ones. Churches are decorated with fairy lights, colorful bulbs and the traditional Christmas trees. People from the community serve foodstuff to the community on the day when the sun dawns in a country where their coming generations should be treated as equal and reverential citizens of Pakistan.