Finding an acceptable place in society as a member of a religious minority has always been challenging, but as Pakistani society continues to become more radicalized and less tolerant, Christians and other minorities are feeling increasingly vulnerable and unable to relate to their countrymen on any level. Extremists have again demonstrated their control over large sections of the media and unchallenged dominance on the street following the tragic assassination of Salmaan Taseer.
Looking at how the murderer, Malik Mumtaz Qadri is showered with rose petals and hailed a hero is terrifying if you are a Pakistani Christian. As Shahzad Kamran a Christian charity worker stated earlier this week, “Taseer died for the Christians and now we are feeling broke and scared. If they can kill the governor of Punjab then Who am I?”
Who am I, is the question Pakistani Christians are faced with today.
In my own struggle to answer this question I founded The Pehchaan Foundation in 2010 because I realized, we as a people have the right to form our own identity. We need to reject the image presented to us by mainstream Pakistani society and stamp our own footprint. Our people do not deserve to be religiously persecuted, economically isolated, politically marginalized, and socially rejected and it is up to us to change this reality.
According to official state statistics there are approximately 2.8 million Christians in Pakistan, or about 2% of the total population. 2% seems tiny and we are made to feel insignificant because of it, but in raw numbers our population is larger than the city of Toronto. We are overwhelmingly Punjabi, increasingly urban, and spread out all over the world. Our hubs are not only Lahore, Faisalabad, and Karachi but also Toronto, Houston, Sydney, and London. In our community we have business owners, doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, bankers, journalists, models, actors, musicians, tailors, cooks, drivers, and cleaners. We are represented in all levels of society.
At The Pehchaan Foundation we believe if the Christian community becomes a united force fully aware of its strengths and weaknesses we will emerge as a strong “creative minority” capable of empowering, protecting, and building our community as Christian Pakistanis.
As a new organization, The Pehchaan Foundation is largely focusing on bringing our community closer together and increasing awareness about our people through our facebook page. The internet helps us because it creates a safe space for dialogue and makes connecting possible for a global community.
Our second focus is encouraging students to consider higher education through our Pehchaan Scholarship Program. Eventually we aim to grant scholarships to talented students with no financial means to get a university education because we are firm believers that higher education is the key to further progress.
Dewan Bahadur S.P Singha of Batala, a powerful Christian leader during partition declared unambiguously that his community preferred to live in Pakistan. Our early leaders were promised freedom to develop our cultures and equal citizenship in the new Republic, but that dream will be ours to create.
Richard Qaiser spent his childhood in Pakistan and is currently residing in the Netherlands. He is a strong supporter of minority Christians in Pakistan and is the founder & director of the Pehchaan Foundation. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Richard loves Toronto!
For more information on the Peechan Foundation click below:
To contribute to this site, with informative writing or experience of your own, please contact us.