Mourning loss of life has a special significance everywhere, especially in the Eastern cultures. “Missing a wedding reception is excusable, but not a funeral,” you are reminded every now and then. That is why elaborate rituals and prayers are conducted on the funerals and cremations, three days, 10 days and even 40 days after the death. And then there are followed by annual memorial services.
Societies suffering oppression and terrorism use funerals as a means of collective healing and protest – Ireland, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Pakistan are examples from the recent past.
[quote]Funerals are a means of collective healing and protest[/quote]
When the then-president Farooq Leghari failed to offer a word of sympathy after the whole Christian village of Shantinagar was burned and 14 churches destroyed in 1997, it saddened all people of good will. The PML-N had won the elections a few days ago, failing to sympathize with the Christian community in clear terms until they settled in the saddle of power comfortably. This moral failure to respond became a part of the collective memory.
In 1998 when Bishop John Joseph laid down his life in protest against the death penalty given to Ayub Masih, the ministers for Information and Religious Affairs gave provocative and misleading statements.
In 2009, when six Christians were burnt alive and several dozen houses were robbed and set ablaze in Gojra, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif only scheduled a visit to the site after the Christian MPAs from his party threatened to resign en bloc. The MPAs remembered that the Judicial Inquiry report on Shantinagar under their party’s government had remained inconclusive. The mention of this fact by some Church leaders during his visit to Gojra extracted some pledges from the chief minister. The Judicial Inquiry report of the Gojra incident was completed and handed over, but it was finally released by the caretaker government of Punjab in 2013. There hasn’t been even a single conviction in court.
The burning of around 80 houses in Joseph Colony in Lahore in 2013 received an immediate response. Lahore has a large Christian population and the elections were only on a month away, so it is easy to be skeptical about the motive. Perhaps we can deduce that the PML-N chief minister had learned from the past.
[quote]The PTI had no clue how to respond[/quote]
It was a colossal loss for the Christian community where in this one single incident in Peshawar 84 lives were lost and over a hundred were injured. The PTI simply had no clue how to respond, especially when the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had already faced criticism on his naive proposal of reserving sanitation work for Christians in his province.
The reaction of the Christian youth, which so far lived by the image of ‘healers and teachers’ set by the generations of Pakistani Christians, was anger. They were somewhat aggressive in Peshawar and Karachi.
Discrimination institutionalized on the basis of religion has taken its toll. Treating painful realities with arrogance adds insult to injury. The opinion of the minority Christians may not matter a lot politically speaking, but defying fairness will deprive the leadership of their legitimacy as duty bearers of the common good.