The terrible plight of the Christians in Pakistan

Heart-rending scenes were shown on television of the coffins of the innocent victims of the suicide bombing following a Sunday morning mass at the All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar. Apparently this was done by Islamic militants in response to the “US drone strikes.”

One of the most helpless minorities on earth are the Christians of Pakistan and this is hardly the first time they are being targeted for being Christian in a predominantly Muslim country. Some of the stupidest and cruelest men on earth, apart from those who occupy positions of power in the American political establishment, are the members of the Pakistani Taliban who shamelessly claimed responsibility for the barbaric and inhumane attack.

Pakistan is a completely brutalized and conscienceless society. Its politicians are crooks and criminals and its intellectuals and journalists are hypocrites of the first order. Religion is a facade for such societies to hide the stark nakedness of their cynicism and cowardice. A government that allows these things to happen, a society that does not fight back when the human rights of minorities are violated with impunity, is a society that has already embarked on the path of moral suicide.

Why can’t the Muslims see that the Christians are as much Pakistanis as themselves? What kind of a deafening, fearful silence is this where we don’t hear or see people of other communities rising to protest against the barbarism? Are the Christians in Pakistan responsible for the drones that are killing helpless civilians? Have these poor people, in principle or otherwise, justified any of those attacks? How can they be seen to be responsible for attacks perpetrated by a powerful imperial nation such as the United States? These are purely rhetorical questions and they mean nothing apart from providing a context to the argument.

The plight of the Christians is unenviable in a society where they could be persecuted on the flimsiest of charges through the deadly blasphemy laws, which are a weapon in the hands of the Muslim majority. What makes this weapon dangerous is that it leaves the Christians vulnerable to any sort of accusation. Practically, they have to exist in a state of terror, afraid of being victimized at the slightest charge of blasphemy.

If the dehumanization of minorities is any indication, Pakistan as a nation-state will not exist for a long time. It has all the conditions of a social order pulled in multiple directions. A dysfunctional political class whose single-point agenda is to loot the country, an army whose interests are in collusion with those of the extremists, a backward-looking civil society plagued by a reactionary understanding of religion and social values, and a general feeling of paralysis, which is true of colonial societies where no one seems to care especially with the deluge round the corner.

Two things we have to remember in this context: one is the role of the United States in creating this situation in Pakistan, thanks to the illusory war on terror and even earlier as an ally in South Asia to counter the influence of the Soviet Union. Another is what Pakistan is doing to itself. Both are equally important in different ways. What role the United States will play in the third world can only be challenged through a social revolution that will destroy the local base it enjoys in these countries. That is not happening in Pakistan.

Things have to worsen in some sense for them to get better. That is the logic that guides violent societies: they have to become more violent before they realize the futility of the violence or else be overwhelmed by a sense of weariness that comes with violence. If the Pakistanis wish to avoid the bitter pill of a destructive transition they need to unite as a nation and think of collective and inclusive solutions. We need patriotism in the third world in order to be able to confront vested interests. In the absence of it, everyone will have to pay the price. Just now it looks like only the minorities are at the receiving end. It won’t be long before the entire country will pay the terrible price for what is happening to the Christians in Pakistan.

Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently working as an Associate Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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