Home Editorial Editorial: C.M. Maryam’s Visit to Maryamabad Church

Editorial: C.M. Maryam’s Visit to Maryamabad Church

The first-time chief minister’s interaction with Christians on Easter will hopefully encourage greater state tolerance for the minority community

by Editorial
Punjab C.M. Maryam Nawaz visits the Maryamabad Christian Church in Sheikhpura.

Photo courtesy Punjab Information Ministry

Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif marked Easter by becoming the province’s first-ever chief minister to visit the Maryamabad Christian Church in Sheikhupura since its inception 131 years ago. Participating in festivities on Easter’s eve, she also disbursed an Easter grant to members of the Christian community—another first—sending a positive message to a minority that often suffers the prejudices of an ideological state.

Covering an area of 835 hectares, the church was founded in 1892 and has since become an important pilgrimage site for over one million congregants annually. Its decline dates back to the 1980s, when dictator Ziaul Haq introduced Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has disproportionately targeted minorities, especially Christians. Recognizing the community as equal citizens is to the credit of C.M. Maryam, who has to be congratulated for being sensitive to the issues faced by them.

Unfortunately, bigotry remains rife in Pakistani society, with caste-ism rampant despite the holy Quran mandating equality of all citizens in an Islamic state. Such caste-related injustice stems from the roots of subcontinental societies, with many Christians in Pakistan facing the twin evils of intolerance and bigotry. It doesn’t help that, among Pakistan’s many minorities, Christians are the most visible, residing in urban areas, and often employed in low-wage jobs. Forced to live in slums, they often face state harassment, as in the case of Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority seeking the demolition of Christian-majority slums in 2015 to “protect” the beauty of Islam.

Amidst this, first-time chief minister Maryam’s gesture to the beleaguered community was an act of great wisdom and hopefully will encourage greater tolerance from the state and boost the political participation of Christians. This would, in turn, encourage minority activists and NGOs to play a critical role in raising awareness about the rights Christians in Pakistan possess under law, which could play a pivotal role in ensuring the community’s survival and prosperity.

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