The twin bomb blasts in Peshawar killed around 85 innocent Christians. Christians constitute a tiny minority of 1.8% in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, they are second class citizens, with death penalty for those who desecrate the name of Muhammad.

 

Maulana Maududi is the thinker who created the ideology of Islamic state. Salvation is not a divine initiative, man saves himself by following the five pillars of Islam. God's will is the primary source of law, not the human agencies. The Islamists want to establish everywhere the state of Medina through forceful political intervention. This ideology disregards the human rights but emphasizes religious affiliation.  

The Pakistani Christians hold on to their faith with much commitment and courage. They manifest a deep sense of commitment to live the gift of Christian faith. They work with other persecuted minorities such as Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs to oppose Islamists by strengthening democratic institutions. Their life is a gift to the universal Church.

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Our memories are fresh with deep pain for the victims and their families of the twin bomb blasts at the All Saints Church in Peshawar. The two suicide bombers who triggered off powerful explosives at the time of the Sunday worship that killed around 85 innocent Christians and injured more than 150 has sharply focused the plight of Muslims in Pakistan. On 2 March 2011, a gun man sprayed bullets on Mr Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minority affairs in the Government of Pakistan for his uncompromised stand against the infamous blasphemy law. The horror of the decimation of a whole Christian colony near Lahore, by unruly mob on the rumor of desecration of the pages of the holy Qur'an remains in our hearts. Undoubtedly Christians in Pakistan live under a lot of pressure from the religious bigots, who are not few in today's Pakistani society as they find themselves in a sticky situation. This short article is written to help Indian Christians to become aware of the sufferings of their co-religionists across the border. This short article has three sections. The first section gives the context of Pakistani Christians. Second section describes the politico-religious basis for discrimination against Christians. Third section points out a few ways in which Christian in Pakistan can deal with the situation. This third section draws from a few intense contacts the present writes maintains with Pakistani Christians.

Christians in Pakistan

Christians constitute a tiny minority of 1.8% among the majority Muslims in Pakistan: around three million among 180 millions. Pakistan emerged as a nation among the comity of nations after the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. While the leaders organized themselves to give a Constitution for the people of Pakistan, the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah was not in favor of a theocratic state. It is said that he stated his preference for a secular state in his speech to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947.  However, the 'Objective Resolution' framed and accepted in 1948 confirmed that Pakistan would function according to the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Qur'an and the 'Traditions' of Muhammad. Thus Pakistan became de jure an Islamic State. In 1973 the third Constitution of Pakistan declared Pakistan as an 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan'. General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq captured power in 1977 through a military coup. He effectively sidelined the minorities from main stream political life with 'separate electorate' for them. This apartheid system effectively made Christians as second class citizens. General Zia made Pakistan strictly an Islamic State with a number of Constitutional amendments. He also made radical changes in the infamous blasphemy law and ensured death penalty for those who desecrate the name of Muhammad. This blasphemy law is claimed to be a dagger hanging on the head of every member of the minority community. With false accusations, impending arrests and the fear of gallows has forced minorities in Pakistan to live always in fear and insecurity.

The ideology of Islamic state

Maulana Maududi is an important Muslim thinker who fired the imagination of many Muslims with the concept of an Islamic state. Maududi was born in the undivided sub-continent and moved to Pakistan after the creation of that nation in 1947. His political views are deeply drenched in his theological anthropology. He understood the concept of human life in the light of human person's relationship with Allah. What does this relationship entail? Man should repose his faith in Allah. Faith in Allah is not a metaphysical relationship between Man and God but it is a contract.  This act of reposing one's faith in Allah is called bargain (Cf. Q. 9:111). This contract necessitates that man barters his life and properties with Allah in exchange for paradise in the life hereafter. What does this mean? To put it simply, salvation in Islam is not a divine initiative. God prescribes the way for man to save himself from hell and depend on God's mercy to enter into heaven. Man saves himself by following the five pillars of Islam: iman (faith), namaz (canonical prayer), roza (fasting in the month of Ramadan), zakat (poor tax), and haj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

Maududi recognised that the true meaning of din (religion) demands that one gives up all forms of servitude to man and submit to Allah alone. Allah alone is sovereign, the supreme ruler. Man neither has autonomy for deciding for oneself nor power to rule over another. God's will is the primary source of law. Human agencies have no power to frame any law. All persons who surrender themselves to the will of God are welded together into a Muslim community; 'ummah'.  God's will is enshrined in 'Shari'ah'. 'Ummah' should adopt 'Shari'ah' to remain Islamic. 'Shari'ah' is the barter. If 'ummah' adopts a law any other than 'Shari'ah' that contract gets broken and 'ummah' turns to be un-Islamic.  Maududi envisaged a political system based on three principles. These principles are as follows: Tawhid (unity of God), Risalah (prophethood), and Khilafah (Caliphate). God is the creator and judge. Man is the representative of God and Risalah (prophethood) is the medium through which man receives the Law of God.  Scholars call those who follow such ideology either as Islamists or Literalists.

One might ask; what are the implications of such a view on politics?  The Islamists affirm that the Muslim prophet Muhammad established one such religious state in Medina. In other words, the state of Medina was established by Muhammad according to the prescriptions of the Qur'an which the Islamists want to establish everywhere. They assert that an Islamic State could be founded only through forceful political intervention. Thus political power is necessary for establishment of an Islamic State. Once an Islamic state is established, non-Muslim populations would become de facto second class citizens.  This ideology disregards the human rights of every person but emphasizes religious affiliation. One should remember that Pakistan is not an Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, but Islamist ideology has a powerful sway on a lot of Pakistani Muslims. Christians are caught in the web of such ideology that disregards their dignity as persons, their human right and religious freedom.  

Pakistani Christian Response

Christians in Pakistan respond to their contexts in a number of steadfast ways. First, they hold on to their faith with much commitment and much courage. "Persecutions will not drown us... the Cross is our way ... and Christ is our hope", told a young member of Jesuit Magis group in one of the conversations with this writer. An old Catholic lady who lost her little home and all her belongings along with several scores of houses that were razed to ground, told a priest friend of this writer, "Father, they can destroy the material things that we gathered by our hard labour, but they cannot touch the spiritual treasure - our faith that is deeply rooted in our heart". Such words of both young and old are not simple bravado but manifest a deep sense of commitment to live the gift of Christian faith.

Second, they work with many civil groups consisting of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs (both Hindus and Sikhs too are persecuted minorities along with Christians) who oppose Islamists and their ideology by strengthening democratic institutions. Both faith and civil responses indicate that Pakistani Christians deal with the adverse situations in noble and democratic ways. In conclusion, it should be affirmed that Pakistani Christians give witness to their faith with much courage and humility. Their life and commitment are a gift to the universal Church. It will not be an exaggeration to say that their faith challenges and invigorates our faith in this Year of Faith.

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