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The cruel fate of Pakistan's Christian martyrs

The public and the government turn a blind eye to sacrifices made by the country's Christian community
Pakistani Christians mourn over the coffin of the victim of a suicide bomb attack on a church in Lahore on March 16, 2015

Pakistani Christians mourn over the coffin of the victim of a suicide bomb attack on a church in Lahore on March 16, 2015. (Photo:AFP)

Published: September 26, 2022 10:58 AM GMT
Updated: September 26, 2022 11:01 AM GMT

Being a martyr is an honor bestowed on a few who have the ability to heroically stand for something even at the cost of their own life. They have the innate potential of dedicating themselves to a certain cause whether it be religion or nation. Martyrs have the passion for surrendering and yielding their entire being for the sake of the cause they believe in.

However, if you look closer, you would undermine the very cause of someone surrendering to death. Isn’t it a brutal trade of fate how someone willingly embraces death yet nobody dares to acknowledge their sacrifice? This brutal trade of fate is a common practice in Pakistan — a common practice to disregard a community’s existence and its contributions. 

Two major churches in Lahore were attacked simultaneously by suicide bombers on March 15, 2015. The bombers met with resistance at both.

At the Church of Saint John, security guard Akash Bashir leaped on the suicide bomber and embraced martyrdom at the age of 21. He deliberately enveloped the suicide bomber in his arms and was blown to pieces along with the assailant. Akash sacrificed his life in order to protect all those who were still begging God for redemption or affinity in the sanctuary of God.

We witnessed the same picture of audacity and valor at the Anglican Christ Church Youhanabad where Obaid Sardar took on the suicide bomber. He distinguished himself by attacking the bomber with resounding slaps, forcing the extremist from the church compound. Obaid Sardar embraced martyrdom in the hope that he would save the congregation inside the church.

Without care for himself, Obaid laid down his life for the sake of his community. Obaid, his wife Ambreen and their unborn child were blown to smithereens by the bomb. Through the sacrifice of three lives, many people within that house of God managed to escape the chaos.

There are certain names that are etched in our memory in relation to the twin blasts of 2015. Akash Bashir sits at the top of the list, honored as a Servant of God by the Vatican.

The twin blasts of 2015 and the chaos unleashed by the attacks are something Christians in Pakistan still carry within themselves as souvenirs of fate.

Youhanabad was turned into a living graveyard after that blast and the living corpses within the Christian colony never received a word of condolence or acknowledgment from government officials. The victims and the martyrs of the explosion were callously disregarded by the government.

The extent of this disregard is evident in the fact that Akash Bashir still isn’t acknowledged as a martyr in his homeland. Obaid Sardar, a forgotten martyr who gave his life for the community, became an obliterated tale in the minds of his own community. How we all turned our eyes away from the sacrifices of Obaid and Ambreen and their unborn child.

In contrast, Aitzaz Hasan was posthumously honored with the Sitara-e-Shujaat, Pakistan's second-highest civil award for bravery, for preventing a suicide bomb attack on his school. He died a martyr for the Pakistani public. Yet Obaid Sardar, Akash Bashir and Zahid Goga were not even bestowed with the title of martyr by the very same public. The public that proclaimed Aitzaz Hasan a hero ignored Obaid and Akash.

Fate is prejudiced towards Christians in Pakistan. Perhaps just like the government, fate was designed to be brutal to Christians in Pakistan. In almost every other way, fate made it obvious to everyone the classification and stratification of Christians upon the standards of this biased taxonomy.

Pakistani Christian face fanatic attacks quite regulatory.  In 1997, Shanti Nagar was reduced to a heap of ashes, Gojra was singed to debris in 2009, Youhanabad was glazed by silent flames in 2015, Kot Radha Kishan witnessed havoc when a Christian couple was lynched after being accused of blasphemy in 2014. The Quetta Church blast in 2017 turned the house of God into a slaughterhouse of Christians, the Gulshan park bombing on Easter Sunday of 2016 left 75 dead including some 25 children. In June this year, a church in Faisalabad church was attacked by some six armed men.

All these are reported incidents of persecution along with many other unreported cases of injustice and yet not a single martyr or hero is acknowledged from all these incidents.

A very common accusation I’ve encountered over the years as a Christian is this: how dare you complain about your loss after the 2014 Peshawar school massacre?

What a brutal way to disregard the loss experienced by minorities! It highlights the humiliation of 'the believers of a lesser God' as most Christians are seen as socially poor, and the misery rained upon them.

Yet that’s the ideal criteria of national tragedy in the eyes of the citizens of Pakistan. To them, that seems an ideal way to discredit the pain, suffering and sorrow experienced by the Islamic republic’s minorities.

Perhaps to be acknowledged by the citizens and authorities of Pakistan, the basic criteria are you have to be part of the majority sect.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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