If I Were a Christian

What would I be thinking if I were a Christian in Pakistan today after yet another incident that has victimized the members of my community? What would I be asking of those who are my fellow citizens?

I use the term ‘fellow citizens,’ knowingly because I am asking for a reciprocal recognition of my rights as a full citizen of this country. These include my civil rights, the protection of my life and property, which are guaranteed under the law.

I would urge my fellow citizens to understand the nature of the incident in which the houses of an entire community have been burned for the alleged transgression of one member of that community.

This is not a natural disaster; it is not an earthquake or a flood that is indifferent to caste, creed or color. This is a deliberate, calculated infliction of terror and violence on a specific subset of fellow citizens in the country.

I understand the impulse to organize relief but that is not an adequate response. I expect a defense of my rights as a citizen. I want an environment in which I would not need relief. I want a space in which I can live without fear of violence because of who I am. I want a commitment that I would be judged for what I have done under the law that is the same for all.

I would like my fellow citizens to be asking the following questions:

Who has violated my rights as a citizen?

Who is responsible for the protection of my rights as a citizen?

Who will raise a voice for the recognition of my rights as a citizen?

What are the actions that will help attain the protection of my rights as a citizen?

There have been many failures in this incident. It is clear it was known in advance the community was to be attacked as the residents had been warned to flee. Why was the area not protected in that case? Who was responsible for that failure of protection? Have those who failed in their task to protect the rights of citizens resigned or been asked to resign? If not, why not?

I would call upon my fellow citizens to ask, in turn, those who are in charge of governance and its administration in the city to account for their failures. I would ask for a court of citizens to demand the governors and officials in charge testify and give an account of their actions. I would urge my fellow citizens to pass civil verdicts based on the evidence presented. I would expect my fellow citizens to withdraw cooperation from these offices till an acceptable resolution to the failure to protect civil rights is found.

I would ask my fellow citizens to stand up for my rights. I would ask them to help me not by providing compensation and relief but by ensuring that I am never in need of them. I have a right to that as a citizen of this country. You have a responsibility to ensure that right as fellow citizens of this country.

If I were a Christian, I would be asking these questions.

I am asking these questions. I am a Christian as long as this struggle has to be waged.

 

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17 Responses to “If I Were a Christian”

  1. mazhur Says:

    you don’t have to feign being a Christian to ask all those questions, every heart with a little empathy whether a Muslim or a Hindu will condemn the incident.

    Reports are it was the result of a dispute over the land which those Christians had encroached and illegally occupied and which is said to be an amenity plot for a mosque.

    Jinnah had remarked in one of his speeches to the minorities, the Parsi’s perhaps, that minorities will be privided complete safet n security to them provided they did not hurt the feelings of the majority, ie Muslims.

    Christians are a strong and well organized community in Pakistan and the present incident indicates that they called for the trouble themselves for they were not charged upon by any mullah but the ordinary folk living around there.
    It seems like smouldering dispute over land suddenly erupting into provoked violence at the defiance of the minority to the majority’s feelings.

    Of course the state is respinsible for maintaining law, order and peace but in a war ridden state like Pakistan where Muslims are at loggerheads with themselves it is too much for you to think nprotest posing as a Christian.
    Plz don’t make it a religious matter though the religious factor did lend force to the regretfull tragedy.

  2. Javed Says:

    Christian should be thankful as only there house were burnt, the poor Shias whose generation have been wiped out are waiting for the society to do something for them too.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Javed: This is a difficult comment to respond to. No one has reason to be thankful in the face of violence. Society has to take a stand against violence of all types. The rights of citizenship which are independent of religion or ethnicity or gender have to be recognized. The difficulty of the task is highlighted by the fact that in South Asia it is still difficult to think in terms of citizenship – we still think in terms of communities.

      • Javed Says:

        By using the word thankful I never undermined the cruelty of the act but in a country where people are killed over their religious beliefs, the action of burning the houses by extremist is though a shameful act yet a thankful one. At least no one lost their life and got few lacs per body. The house were built again.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Javed: Does this mean that as a society we should be grateful for all acts in which no lives are lost and we should accept them? If we are going to draw a line why not fight for a society in which both life and property of a citizen are sacred.

  3. Myrah Butt Says:

    I went to Badami Bagh and interacted with the victims. I was expecting similar questions from the people at the relief camps. I was expecting them to be frustrated and angry and full of questions. However, as per my observation, the situation was different. It was different, firstly, because they were grateful to the government, NGOs and the people. In my opinion, they were being grateful to the people who perpetuated such violence on them in the first place. Secondly, they claimed that this violence was not on the basis of religion. They have been cohabiting with Muslims since the past 30 years. In their opinion the violence had occurred because a factory owner nearby wanted their land. This just shows how we are used to getting everything done by violence. Thirdly, they were not as “sad or angry” as I expected. This could probably be because it has been a week now and they have managed to get out of the shock and trauma. However, upon further thought, I believe that they are unwilling to speak out because they are too scared to speak out and they probably do not want such an event to occur again or they do not want to offend anyone because they don’t want the relief efforts to stop. All in all, I was expecting something different from what I witnessed at the camp. I, personally, would have been absolutely infuriated had this happened to me. However, they are dealing with it pretty positively (which was a good thing). Its just that it raised a lot of questions.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Myrah: Thanks for visiting the locality and seeing for yourself. We should remain open to the possibility that our initial reactions can be wrong. I tend to agree that the cause of violence was something other than what we have been led to believe. Also, the fact remains that there was violence and the rights of the residents were violated. What needs explanation is the reaction of the residents. One hypothesis could be that when people are so vulnerable, powerless and helpless, they seek support. It is a common occurrence that it such situations those who inflict the violence reappear as protectors.

      When you think of how you would have reacted, you are thinking from a position of security. If you put yourself in the state of mind and physical condition of the victims, your priorities in terms of immediate needs might change. The anger might come much later once some semblance of normalcy has been restored. I am not sure if this is the right way to understand the reactions of the community. I guess there must be some literature on the nature of reactions to victimization and trauma.

      • Myrah Butt Says:

        Yes, I do agree with what you have stated. It is very important to understand the root cause of this violence in order to fix it. I get how on the face of it, popular narrative is giving the impression that it ensued on the basis of religion. If that is the case, one would obviously direct all efforts and thought towards fixing that problem. But if the violence was the consequence of some industrialist’s will to increase his land, the issue would need to be considered differently.
        The primary solution, of course, is to fix our law and enforcement. It will become much easier to do this is we take religion out of the picture and study the event in a different light. Given the sentiments of our general population towards issues like blasphemy, if it could be proven that religion was not the cause of violence in this case,the chances of granting these people justice become greater.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Myrah: For me justice is a second-order issue in this situation. Of course, those who have been wronged should get justice but the primary objective ought to be to make such violations of civil rights impossible. The first order of business should be to charge under the law those people directly responsible for the violence, whatever its instigation. Beyond that, those vested with the responsibility to protect citiznes should be held accountable for their failure.

          There is no place for vigilante justice in civilized society. Even if it can be proven that there was blasphemy, the individual committing it has to be answerable to the law as it exists – it cannot be made the cause for punishing an entire community outside the law.

          A further aspect is to realize why laws such as those pertaining to blasphemy should be re-examined. They make it very easy for unscrupulous people, like land-grabbers, to hide behind them to achieve their hidden objectives. Religion has always been a ready tool in the service of politics and private gain and people should see through the game and close that loophole. The effort should not be to try and prove that religion was not the cause in this case. It should be to ensure that religion can never be used as a cover for victimization.

          • Myrah Butt Says:

            In that case, is it possible that the victims are not aware of their rights themselves e.g. they see security as a privilege than a right. Do you think lack of awareness is one of the causes of the problem. Maybe that could prevent people from using religion as a means to achieve their goals. I am just thinking of possible ways to fix this problem and what I can personally do.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Myrah: No, I think people are aware of their rights but unable to have them protected or enforced. Therefore they seek allies who can help secure their rights. People may not be aware of the details of legal remedies available to them or procedures to follow to seek redress and that is where public awareness campaigns can help.

          • mazhur Says:

            Awareness through puclic campaigns are good idea if directed not to dispute the law but to make it known at large, However, in the present instance the problem with the minorities-religious, ethnic, linguistic, sectarian, racial, etc-is their inclination to live in groups in certain parts of the city. This tendency though voluntary resembles the compulsory settlements or ghetto’s of the Jews in the past. In Hindi or Urdu such settlements are generally known as ”Paraa’s” ( or Padaa’s, if written in Hindi phonetic). Like the Jewish ghetto’s these secluded settlements tend to be almost ‘no go areas’ for others and the minorities living there consider it their ‘kingdom’. The basic idea of the minorities living thus in separate isolated colonies which also resemble the bubonic style could be for their safety and security, preservation of their culture and personal freedom in their own style in their own little world but in reality this tendency is bad for civil living. For example, there are Bengali Paraa’s, Hazara Colony, Karim Abad,Pathan colony, Punjab colony, Bhangi Paraa, Marwari Lane, Isa Nagri, Joseph colony, etc etc in almost some cities of Pakistan which clearly reflect who the residents there are ..or who mostly live there. These are almost No go areas for others…almost like the ubiquitous China towns abroad.
            Thus it is not the lack of laws which results in troubles which shooted out recently in Abbas Town or Joseph colony and lately in Gojra and is also rampant in Gilgit-Chitral, etc.

  4. mazhur Says:

    I understand that and for that you needn’t have to pose like a Christian.
    Muslims here are denied more citizen rights than the Christians or any other minority for that sake.
    Just for example Christians can break fast with wine but Muslims can’t!
    I agree with Myrah’s eye witness account and her views hold water.

  5. SouthAsian Says:

    The case is being heard by the Supreme Court and some details are mentioned in the linked news item:

    http://dawn.com/2013/03/26/police-report-on-badami-bagh-attack-officers-took-refuge-in-godown/

    “This failure was sufficient to prima facie conclude that fundamental rights of the citizens of the colony under articles 9 and 14 of the constitution had not been protected, a visibly disturbed court observed.”

  6. Mohammad Ali Says:

    For more than 13 years this nation is being fooled. Pakistan is in a state of war. Her enemy is killing her through 4th generation warfare. A slow poison in which no one known what is happening. It is about time to tell people that they are in war and tell and actual ground situation.

    • mazhur Says:

      Yesterday 41 innocent got killed in a bomb blast in QisaKhwani Bazar at Peshawer n they were not Christians. Neither Muslims nor Christians protested at this killing as if those killed were not human beings. Let Christians not blow their horn n realise the gruesome situation particularly in Peshawar n Quetta areas where war is on the swing. No one must feel safe during war n regurgitate his demand for ”rights”.

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