Christianity in Pakistan

Christianity in Pakistan
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in Pakistan

Church of Pakistan


Aftab Alexander Mughal
Alvin Robert Cornelius
Esther John
Julius Salik
Mervyn Middlecoat

Cecil Chaudhry
Haroon Nasri
Gulshan Esther
Anthony Theodore Lobo
Joseph Coutts
Mary Emily


St. Patrick's Cathedral
Christ Church Rawalpindi
All Saints Church
St Philip's Church
St John's Church
St. Lawrence's Church Soldier Bzr Karachi

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Pakistani Christians
GiaAli.jpg5.5.07MartinBashirByLuigiNovi.jpgMichael Nazir-Ali.jpg
Gia Ali, Martin Bashir, Michael Nazir-Ali Bohemia (musician)
Total population
2.8 million (2008)
1.6% of the Pakistani Population

Urdu · Punjabi · English

Christianity is the largest religious minority in Pakistan. The total number of Christians in Pakistan is approximately 2,800,000 in 2008, or 1.6% of the population. Of these, approximately half are Roman Catholic and half Protestant.[1] All modern Christians in Pakistan are desended from recent converts during British rule, they are not descended from any historical community of Christians from ancient times.



According to tradition, the Indo-Parthian king Gondophares was proselytized by St. Thomas, the Apostle, who continued on to Kerala in South India.

In 1877, on St. Thomas' Day at Westminster Abbey, London, Rev Thomas Valpy French was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Lahore, a large diocese which included all of the Punjab, then under British colonial rule, and remained so until 1887, during this period he also opened the Divinity College, Lahore in 1870.[2][3][4] Rev Thomas Patrick Hughes served as a Church Missionary Society missionary at Peshawar (1864–84), and became an oriental scholar, and compiled a 'Dictionary of Islam' (1885).[5]

Missionaries accompanied colonizing forces from Portugal, France, and Great Britain, and in north western Ancient India, today's Pakistan, Christianity was mainly brought by the British rulers of India in the later 18th and 19th century. This is evidenced in cities established by the British, such as the port city of Karachi, where the majestic St. Patrick's Cathedral, Pakistan's largest church stands, and the churches in the city of Rawalpindi, where the British established a major military cantonment. All of the modern Christians in Pakistan are descended from converts from during British rule.

The Europeans won small numbers of converts to Anglicanism, Methodism, the Lutheran Church and Catholicism from the native populations. Islam was very strong in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province, but small native communities of converts to Christianity were formed. The largest numbers came from resident officers of the British Army and the government. European and wealthy native Christians established colleges, churches, hospitals and schools in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. There is a large Catholic Goan community in Karachi which was established when Karachi's infrastructure was developed by the British before World War II, and the Irish (who were subjects of the British Empire and formed a large part of the British Army) were an important factor in the establishment of Pakistan's Catholic community.

When political independence was won by the people of the South Asia in 1947, the organization and activities of the Christian community changed drastically. Christians in Punjab and Sindh had been quite active post 1945 in their support for Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League. Even before the final phase of the movement, leading Indian Christians like Pothan Joseph had rendered valuable services as journalists and propagandists of the Muslim League. Jinnah had repeatedly promised all citizens of Pakistan complete equality of citizenship, but this promise was not kept by his successors. Pakistan became an Islamic Republic in 1956, making Islam the source of legislation and cornerstone of the national identity, while guaranteeing freedom of religion and equal citizenship to all citizens. In the mass population exchanges that occurred between Pakistan and India upon independence due to conflict between Muslims and followers of Indian religions, most Hindus and nearly all Sikhs fled the country, but the Christians remained.

Christians have made some contributions to the Pakistani national life. Pakistan's first non-Muslim and certainly most respected Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court was Justice A. R. Cornelius. Pakistani Christians also distinguished themselves as great fighter pilots in the Pakistan Air Force. Notable amongst them are Cecil Chaudhry, Peter O'Reilly and Mervyn L Middlecoat. Christians have also contributed as educationists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen. One of Pakistan's greatest batsmen, Yousuf Youhana, was also Christian, but he recently willingly converted to Islam, taking upon the Islamic name Mohammad Yousuf. In Britain, the Bishop emeritus of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, is a Pakistani Christian.

Apart from the Catholics, Christians of other denominations re-organized themselves, in India, into the Churches of North and South India respectively, and as the Church of Pakistan in 1948. Politically, groups like the Pakistan Christian Congress have arisen. The New Apostolic Church also has followers in Pakistan.


Province Christians[6]
Flag of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.svg Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.21% 0,042,452
Federally Administered Tribal Areas 0.07% 0,002,223
Flag of Punjab.svg Punjab 2.31% 1,878,735
Flag of Sindh.PNG Sindh 0.97% 0,344,065
Flag of Balochistan, PK.gif Balochistan 0.40% 0,031,200
Proposed Flag of Islamabad Capital Territory.svgIslamabad Capital Territory 4.07% 038,894

Community issues

Church in Islamabad

From 1947 to the mid-1970s, the governments of Pakistan were largely secular in policy and judgment.However, with the Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization and forced implementation of Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan marginalized the Christian minorities and caused intense persecutions.

In 1971, East Pakistan became independent as Bangladesh, and a large chunk of Pakistan's Hindus and Christians were de-linked from Pakistan. Pakistan became a culturally monolithic, increasingly Islamic state, with smaller religious minorities than ever.

With the governments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul-Haq, more stringently Islamic laws transformed Pakistan. While conversion to other faiths than Islam is not prohibited by law, culture and social pressures prohibit such conversions (see Apostasy in Islam). Extremely controversial were the blasphemy laws, which made it treacherous for non-Muslims to express themselves without coming off as un-Islamic. Zia also introduced the Sharia as a basis for lawmaking, reinforced by Nawaz Sharif in 1991. Coerced conversions to Islam from Christianity are a major source of concern for Pakistani Christians, and the minority face threats, harassment and intimidation tactics from Islamic extremists.[7] Often, converts to Christianity from Islam face the death penalty [8]

The 1990s

In the 1990s, some Christians were arrested on charges of blasphemy, and for protesting that appeared to insult Islam. John Joseph, a bishop in Faisalabad committed suicide to protest the execution of a Christian man on blasphemy charges.

Discrimination in the Constitution

Christians, along with other non-Muslim minorities, are discriminated against in the Constitution of Pakistan. Non-Muslims are barred from becoming the President[9] or Prime Minister. [10] Furthermore, they are barred from being judges in the Federal Shariat Court, which has the power to strike down any law deemed un-Islamic.[11]

Faisalabad Riots

The English Daily Telegraph published reports on November 14, 2005 claiming that Christian churches and schools (in the city of Faisalabad) have been destroyed "when Muslim preachers urged people to 'take revenge' after a Christian allegedly burnt pages of the Koran."

The newspaper went on to say: "Hundreds of Christians fled the town as a crowd thousands strong, wielding axes and sticks, set fire to five churches, a dozen houses, three schools, a dispensary, a convent and two parsonages."

The incidents and the reports were published just as the English cricket team was touring Pakistan and preparing to play a test match in Faisalabad, a major city in the province of Punjab.

Christians in Pakistan Armed Forces

Christians have not full liberty but they have served in Pakistan Armed Forces. They have received highest civilians and military awards. Some of the notable Christians of PAF are:

  • Group Captain Eric Gordon Hall
  • Wing Commander Nazir Latif
  • Wing Commander Mervyn L. Middlecoat
  • Squadron Leader Peter Christy
  • Flight Lieutenant William D. Harney[12]


Blasphemy Laws

Pakistani law mandates that any "blasphemies" of the Koran are to be met with punishment. On July 28, 1994, Amnesty International urged Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto to change the law because it was being used to terrorize religious minorities. She tried but was unsuccessful. However, she modified the laws to make them more moderate. Her changes were reversed by the Nawaz Sharif administration. Some people accused of blasphemy have been killed in prison or shot dead in court, and even if pardoned, may remain in danger from imams in their local village.[13]

Ayub Masih, a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 1998. He was accused by a neighbor of stating that he supported British writer, Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. Lower appeals courts upheld the conviction. However, before the Pakistan Supreme Court, his lawyer was able to prove that the accuser had used the conviction to force Masih's family off their land and then acquired control of the property. Masih has been released.[14]

On September 22, 2006, a Pakistani Christian named Shahid Masih was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating Islamic "blasphemy laws" in the country of Pakistan. He is presently held in confinement and has expressed fear of reprisals by Islamic fundamentalists.[15] (Note that the name "Masih", which is Arabic for "Messiah", is a common surname in Pakistan among Christians.)

In November 2010, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging for "blasphemy"; the sentence has to be upheld in higher court before it can be executed.

Islamist violence against Christians

See also List of terrorist incidents in Pakistan since 2001.

On October 7, 2001 the U.S.-led War in Afghanistan began.

On August 9, 2002 Muslim gunmen threw grenades into a chapel on the grounds of the Taxila Christian Hospital in northern Punjab 15 miles west of Islamabad, killing four, including two nurses and a paramedic, and wounding 25 men and women.[16]

On September 25, 2002, unidentified Muslim gunmen shot dead six people at a Christian charity in Karachi's central business district. They entered the third-floor offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) and shot their victims in the head. All of the victims were Pakistani Christians. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said the victims had their hands tied and their mouths had been covered with tape.[17]

On December 25, 2002 a few days after an Islamic cleric called for Muslims to kill Christians, two burqa-clad Muslim gunmen tossed a grenade into a Presbyterian church during a Christian sermon in Chianwala in east Pakistan, killing three girls.[18]

The All Pakistan Minority Alliance said "We have become increasingly victimised since the launch of the US-led international war on terror. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the international community to ensure that the government protects us."[19]

In November 2005, 3,000 militant Islamists attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches. The attack was over allegations of violation of blasphemy laws by a Pakistani Christian named Yousaf Masih. The attacks were widely condemned by some political parties in Pakistan.[20] However, Pakistani Christians have expressed disappointment that they have not received justice. Samson Dilawar, a parish priest in Sangla Hill, has said that the police have not committed to trial any of the people who were arrested for committing the assaults, and that the Pakistani government did not inform the Christian community that a judicial inquiry was underway by a local judge. He continued to say that Muslim clerics "make hateful speeches about Christians" and "continue insulting Christians and our faith".[21]

In February 2006, churches and Christian schools were targeted in protests over the publications of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in Denmark, leaving two elderly women injured and many homes and properties destroyed. Some of the mobs were stopped by police.[22]

On June 5, 2006, a Pakistani Christian stonemason named Nasir Ashraf was working near Lahore when he drank water from a public facility using a glass chained to the facility. He was assaulted by Muslims for "Polluting the glass". A mob developed, who beat Ashraf, calling him a "Christian dog". Bystanders encouraged the beating, because it would be a "good" deed that would help them get into heaven. Ashraf was eventually hospitalized.[23][24]

On August 2006, a church and Christian homes were attacked in a village outside of Lahore, Pakistan in a land dispute. Three Christians were seriously injured and one missing after some 35 Muslims burned buildings, desecrated Bibles and attacked Christians.[25]

Based, in part, on such incidents, Pakistan was recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in May 2006 to be designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) by the Department of State.[25]

In July 2008, a Muslim mob stormed a Protestant church during a prayer service on the outskirts of Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, denouncing the Christians as "infidels" and injuring several, including a pastor.[26]

The 2009 Gojra riots was a series of violent pogroms against Christian minorities by Muslims.[27]

In June 2009, International Christian Concern reported the rape and killing of a Christian man in Pakistan, for refusing to convert to Islam.[28]

In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by gunmen after he spoke out against Pakistan's blasphemy laws. The U.K. increased financial aid to the country, sparking criticism of British foreign secretary William Hague. Cardinal Keith O’Brien stated, "To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy."[29]

The Catholic Church in Pakistan requested that Pope Benedict declare martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti.[30]

At least 20 people, including police officials, were wounded as 500 Muslim demonstrators turned ugly and attacked the Christian community in Gujranwala city on April 29, 2011, Minorities Concern of Pakistan has learnt.[31]

During a press conference in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan, on May 30, 2011, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi and other clerics of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam quoted “immoral Biblical stories” and demanded to ban the Bible. Maulana Farooqi said, “Our lawyers are preparing to ask the court to ban the book.”[32]

See also

Christianity by Country
Cefalu Christus Pantokrator cropped.jpg

Full list  •   v · d · e


  1. ^ By Location
  2. ^ Churches and Ministers: Home and Foreign EventsNew York Times, January 13, 1878.
  3. ^ An Heroic Bishop Chapter VI. His Fourth Pioneer Work: The Lahore Bishopric.
  4. ^ Beginnings in India By Eugene Stock, D.C.L., London: Central Board of Missions and SPCK, 1917.
  5. ^ British Library
  7. ^ The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  8. ^ The Daily Telegraph (London).;jsessionid=L4VNKR5SL3KDBQFIQMFSFFWAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2006/03/27/wchrist27.xml. 
  9. ^ The Constitution of Pakistan, Part III: Chapter 1: The President
  10. ^ The Constitution of Pakistan, Notes for Part III, Chapter 3
  11. ^ The Constitution of Pakistan, Part VII: Chapter 3A: Federal Shariat Court
  12. ^ "Gallant Christians at PAF". PAF. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  13. ^ Guerin, Orla (6 December 2010). "Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi 'has price on her head'". BBC. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  14. ^ Religious Intolerance In Pakistan
  15. ^ PAKISTAN Young Christian arrested for blasphemy - Asia News
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ Gunmen 'execute' Pakistan Christians
  20. ^ Asien, Pakistan: Sangla Hill attack continues to draw condemnation - missio
  21. ^ PAKISTAN Islamic extremists still unpunished 40 days after the Sangla Hill attack - Asia News
  22. ^ International Christian Response: Cartoon Protesters in Pakistan Target Christians
  23. ^ Christian beaten for drinking water,Worldnet Daily
  24. ^ Christian attacked for polluting,Pakistan Christian Post
  25. ^ a b N.J. Civil Unions Hung Up on 'Marriage' |
  26. ^ Mazhar, Jawad (July 15, 2008). "Muslim Mob Attack Protestant Church In Pakistan". BosNewsLife. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  27. ^ Waraich, Omar (August 5, 2009). "Pakistan: Who's Attacking the Christians?". Time (magazine).,8599,1914750,00.html. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  28. ^ Nora Zimmett (June 13, 2009). "Christian Man Raped, Murdered for Refusing to Convert to Islam, Family Says". FOX News.,2933,526126,00.html. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  29. ^ Johnson, Simon (March 15, 2011). "William Hague accused of 'anti-Christian' foreign policy". (London). Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  30. ^ Mughal, Aftab Alexander (17 April 2011). "Pope Benedict is urged to declare martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti". Spero News. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  31. ^ Mughal, Aftab Alexander (2 May 2011). = 2 May 2011 "Pakistan: Christians left their homes after Muslim mob attacked them". Continental News. = 2 May 2011. 
  32. ^ Mughal, Aftab Alexander (5 June 2011). = 5 June 2011 "Christian leaders condemn the demand of Islamic party to ban the Bible in Pakistan". Continental News. = 5 June 2011. 

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External links

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