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Pakistan

Christians´ Role In Establishing Pakistan Nation Highlighted On Radio

Updated: August 28, 2003 05:00 PM GMT
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A Catholic priest from Lahore archdiocese recently told Radio Pakistan listeners of the important role Christians played in the creation of Pakistan.

"The Christians showed great cooperation in the creation of Pakistan with the founder of the country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah," Father Inayat Bernard said Aug. 9 during a 15-minute interview. The program was aired from the Radio Pakistan studio in Lahore, Punjab province, 290 kilometers south of Islamabad.

Father Bernard stressed that at the time of partition of British India in 1947, three Christian politicians helped swing the vote of the United Punjab Assembly in favor of Punjab becoming part of Pakistan.

The priest joined other Christian panelists for the program on the birth of Pakistan and the role of Christians. It was broadcast ahead of Pakistan Day Aug. 14, the 56th anniversary of the country´s creation.

Father Bernard was speaking in his capacity as spokesperson for the Catholic bishops´ National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism.

This was the third radio interview he has given since the introduction of joint electorates in October 2002. Under the joint electorate system, Muslim and minority community voters can vote for politicians of any religion.

Father Bernard said that just ahead of the partition, Christians in Punjab met with Jinnah several times to assure him of their support. Then, in June 1947, the three Christian politicians in the United Punjab Assembly cast their votes with the Muslim League for Punjab to become part of Pakistan. Without them, Father Bernard pointed out, the Muslim League´s 88 votes for inclusion in Pakistan would have been offset by the Hindu Unicet Party´s 88 votes for inclusion in India. Instead, the vote was 91 to 88.

The priest also reminded listeners of Jinnah´s first speech to Pakistan´s Constituent Assembly, in which the nation´s founder assured that people of all religions would be equal citizens and free to worship in Pakistan.

Father Bernard said, "We have to follow the vision of the founder to tolerate and accept one another to work better in the country."

He complained that historians of Pakistan have not given serious thought to the contribution of Christians in the Pakistan Movement, and he urged more objectivity.

According to Father Bernard, Jinnah and his sister Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah appreciated Christians´ contribution, as could be seen by their visiting St. Patrick´s´ Cathedral in Karachi for a thanksgiving service on Aug. 17, 1947.

Sister Zakia Jamal, another of the radio panelists, pointed out that Pakistan´s founder and many other leaders have been educated in Christian institutions.

The nun from the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary convent in Kasur, Lahore archdiocese, thanked the present government for the recent denationalization of Church schools. She said the Church in Pakistan offers the service of educating children for a better Pakistan.

END

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