Christianity is the third largest religion in Pakistan, covering 1.27% of the population according to the 2017 census. The communities’ contributions, however, are way greater in proportion to their size in number.
The Christians took upon themselves the responsibility to educate the masses in Pakistan by providing them with quality academic resources and keeping them updated with modern trends. A great example of that would be the Forman Christian College which has produced eminent scholars, politicians, bureaucrats, Army officers, and industrialists.
Quaid-e-Azam (R.A), Allama Iqbal (R.A), and Ch. Rehmat were also the product of Christian institutes. Many new educational institutes in Pakistan were inspired by the Christian education system and followed their models as a foundation.
A survey showed that about 90% of the students studying in the missionary schools were Muslims. The reason behind choosing these schools is the quality education they impart along with other social, moral, and extra-curricular skills. The Belgium Mission High School in Dalwal and the Saint Anthony High School in Lahore have been serving for over a century now.
One of the recipients of Nishan-e-Haider, Major Shabbir Shareef Shaheed, completed his O Levels from Saint Anthony High School. The former chief of the Pakistan Army General Raheel Shareef also studied at Saint Anthony High School.
Various Christian mission hospitals are trying to provide health services at the lowest cost to underprivileged people in Pakistan, namely the Holy Family Hospital and the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Karachi. One such hospital is the Taxila Mission Hospital which has been offering complete eye and general medical services for more than 150 years now. Sialkot Mission Hospital and Qalanderabad Mission Hospital are eminent for their services in eye care as well.
The Saint Elizabeth Hospital Hyderabad is known for its services during the Mohajir and Sindhi conflict over linguistic issues in the late 1900s. It has also developed an excellent school of midwives catering mostly to Sindh & Balochistan, along with a centre for home-based palliative care mainly to serve cancer patients. This facility alone serves an average of 40,000 cancer patients a year.
The Christian missionary hospitals have contributed greatly in eradicating leprosy among the Pakistanis especially the residents of the Potohar Region. For example, the Rawalpindi Leprosy Hospital set up in 1904 by the British Leprosy Mission is the oldest health facility in Pakistan to treat this particular disease.
Military Achievements of Pakistani Christians
The Pakistani Christian minorities have produced some great fighter pilots including Cecil Chaudhary, Peter O’Riley, and Merryin L. Middle Coat. F.E. Chaudhary, an active journalist vocalizing the Muslim’s league’s stance before partition, sent both of his sons to the Pakistani Air Force. His son Squadron Leader Cecil Chaudhary proved to be the pride of the nation as a hero of the 1965 war. The Christian military men have received 7 Sitar-e-Jurat, 3 Tamgha-e-Jurat, 9 Sitara-e-Basalat, and 9 Tamgha-e-Basalat.
The Christians were also among the first martyrs of the Pakistani military e.g., Flight Lt Alfred Jagivan in 1948. Another example is Lt Daniel Utarid Shaheed who led his men to the Bangladesh War in 1971. His famous last words to his army doctor were “Give this bullet to my mother as a souvenir and tell her that I took it in my chest while defending my homeland”.
Role in Making Pakistan a Nuclear State
A forgotten hero of Pakistan, Samuel Martin Burke, played a vital role in the nuclear program of Pakistan. SM Burke served in the foreign services of Pakistan, and although he was asked by both countries (India and Pakistan) to serve in their civil service, he chose to stay in Pakistan.
When he was Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Canada, he played a pivotal role in finalizing the negotiating deal between both countries (Canada and Pakistan) on shipping uranium and the installation of a nuclear power plant for electricity.
Colin David was a famous Pakistani painter. The Benjamin sisters were popular musicians. Walis Mathias was a Pakistani cricketer and Jack Britlio was an Olympic hockey player. Also, Justice A.R. Cornelius, who served as the 4th CJP from 1960 to 1968, was the first non-Muslim Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court.
Contemporary Pakistani Christians
His Eminence Joseph Coutts, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, based in Karachi (who was also the class fellow of Maj. Shabeer Shaheed) has the voting authority to vote for the new pope. Moreover, he served as the Bishop of Hyderabad from 1988 to 1998, then as the Bishop of Faisalabad from 1998 to 2012, and later as the Archbishop of Karachi from 2012 to 2021 before being created as a Cardinal by Pope Francis on 28 June 2018.
Archbishop Dr. Joseph Arshad was the first Pakistani priest to join the Vatican Diplomatic Service. He has been in the diplomatic service of the pope and has served in Malta, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Madagascar, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was appointed by Pope Francis as the Bishop of Faisalabad in 2013 and later elevated to the Archbishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi in 2016. Micheal Nazir Ali, a Pakistani-born British, served as the Bishop of Rochester from 1994 to 2004 and previously was the Bishop of the Diocese of Raiwand.
FR. Gulshan Barkat is a Christian historian based in Karachi who has published extensive research on the relationship between the East India Company and the Roman Catholic Church in the sub-continent. Sister Genevieve is the national director of the Catholics Women Association.
Brigadier Simon Sharaf (retired) is one of the few Christian military officers promoted to this rank. He is also a political economist. His most notable contribution to the military is his involvement in the nuclear policy-making team.
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