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.