Proclaiming Christianity on public roads may be a rare sight in Pakistan, but Christian tuk-tuk drivers have their ways. Every Sunday the parking lot at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore gets crowded with Christian “auto rickshaws,” a kind of three-wheel taxi locally known as tuk-tuks. Most can be identified by the rosaries hanging from the rear view mirror, but several go even further with stickers of the cross, Jesus, Mary and St Anthony on the windscreens and biblical verses on the rear coverings. Similarly customized rickshaws can be spotted in Christian neighborhoods all over the country. There are over 300,000 rickshaws in Lahore alone, but the Christian versions offer more than just cheap transport. Shahid Masih uses his to bring his family to pray at the Cathedral. “Not only does it accommodate the whole family with five children, it also earns me an extra 6000 rupees (US$ 70) every month, as I’ve been driving it part-time in the evenings for a year,” he said. Masih, who works by day for a telecoms company, takes care to use a special cloth to clear the dust off the Jesus stickers, which he bought from the Cathedral bookshop. “Having them on the front assures me of safe travel and it also gives me a chance to talk about my faith to Muslim customers when they ask about them.” George Masih chose a sticker of St Anthony to adorn his rickshaw and says it has helped him to continue earning an income after he retired from his job as gardener at the church school. “The resident nuns hire me,” he said. “I come a few hours early every day to pray and do some voluntary work around the church.” Nadim Fida has worked for the Young Christian Movement, campaigning for the rights of rickshaw drivers for the past five years. He is fully in favor of the Christian-customized rickshaws. “It’s a positive sign,” he said. “The Christian faith is a minority and many are poor, but we must take pride in that faith, amid rising intolerance and discrimination.” Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore agreed. “The poor Christians are normally expected to be street sweepers. This is a sign of progress, even though most of them only rent their tuk-tuks,” he said. “They witness their faith even though most of their customers are non- Christians.”
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