Pakistani Christians Celebrate Christmas Despite Hardship

Pakistani Christians, a slim minority in the Muslim-majority nation, cannot celebrate Christmas as freely and openly as their Christian brethren in different countries.

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Credit: Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/GettyImages

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan  — The majority of Pakistan’s Christian community in the capital Islamabad faced immense hardships to celebrate Christmas because of spiraling inflation.

Shahzad Masih, who works with a private organization, said many Christians live in poor areas in Islamabad and are denied government jobs and help because of their religion.

Shahzad believes there is a double standard in the government’s treatment of minorities in the country. “We are deliberately sidelined in this country,” he said adding that “Even after completing graduation and graduate school we’re denied good positions in the government.”

“Very low-paid jobs such as laborers and sweepers are offered to us by various institutions like Pakistan’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) here in Islamabad.” He claimed that “In good institutions if there is a clerical or security guard job, they won’t give it to a Christian.”

It may be mentioned here that in the heart of Islamabad around 500 Christian families live in mud houses. During a visit to the area it was observed that Pakistani Christians lack access to clean drinking water and proper gas. Most of the slum-dwellers rely on trees to secure firewood in the winter, since they have no access to gas.

It is estimated that approximately 50,000 people live in 22 slums in Islamabad and lack basic facilities like clean drinking water, electricity, gas and functioning toilets. Men, women and children cut trees in those areas for domestic kitchen use.

Sitting outside a mud house, 64-year-old Sharjeel Masih hopes their dreams are realized one day. He remarked:

“I hope we would be able to celebrate Christmas with full religious zeal and enthusiasm. I hope we and our churches will be secure in the future. I wish for basic facilities and equal treatment like Muslims; after all we are human beings first and religion comes second.”

The slum dwellers’ complaints were startling. “Ahmad and Muhammad without education can easily get a job here. They can safely celebrate their Eid but a Masih (Christian) is either ineligible, treated as a terrorist or Western agent,” laments Yousif Masih, telling details of his Christmas activities.

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“We face more problems than other Christians. It’s Christmas but half of us cannot afford two meals,” he said.

Despite high inflation in Islamabad, slum dwellers celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm by decorating lights and colorful trinkets. In spite of their hardship, their momentous occasion was filled with happiness and joy with candles, cakes, prayers and partying.

Big gatherings of the Christian community were held at the Lady Fatima Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Protestant Church on Mall Road, Saint Anthony Church, and Saint Mary’s Church in Sher Zaman Colony. Children were especially delighted to see Santa Claus.

In Rawalpindi, Khalid Masood, Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, and Sajid Zafar, District Coordination Officer, visited the churches along with other police officials.

Kiyya Qadir Baloch is a freelance Baloch journalist associated with the Daily Times based in Islamabad. He reports on foreign affairs, Baloch insurgency, militancy and sectarian violence in Balochistan. Read other articles by Kiyya.

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