Date: June 14, 2017
by Elizabeth Kendal
Many Pakistani Christians are 'untouchables' or choorahs - they are so low on
the social scale they are beneath the caste system. Despite their
'untouchablity' having its origins in Hindu India, the tradition continues in
Pakistan. As choorahs, these Christians are condemned to a life of either
street sweeping or sanitation work. Indeed, whilst Christians comprise a mere
2.3 percent of Pakistanis, virtually all Pakistani street sweepers and
sanitation workers are Christians. Whenever a city's sewerage lines are
blocked, officials don't call in unionised plumbers with expensive machinery;
rather they call up the 'untouchable' sanitation workers who must plunge into
manholes and unblock the sewerage manually. Despite the fact that this
routinely releases deadly poisonous gases, the workers are not provided any
protection, presumably because as infidel choorahs, these Christians are
deemed valueless and disposable.
On 1 June Christian sanitation worker Irfan Masih (unmarried, aged 28) was at
a job in Umerkot City, Sindh Province, when a fellow worker, Yaqoob, lost
consciousness in a sewer because of poisonous gas. Irfan jumped in to rescue
him, but as Yaqoob was being lifted out the rope failed, causing Yaqoob to
fall back into the manhole on top of Irfan, who then also lost consciousness.
A third worker, Shaukat, jumped in to help but also lost consciousness. At
that point the other workers called the men's families who came to the
rescue. The families raced their unconscious loved ones to the hospital only
to have three doctors refuse to treat the both physically and ritually
'unclean' chooras. The families washed the men while a fourth doctor stepped
in to help, but it was too late for Irfan. While the other two workers were
raced to another hospital, Irfan was pronounced dead. This was not an
isolated incident, for Christians - especially choorahs - are routinely
refused medical treatment in Pakistan. Whilst it is shameful yet unsurprising
that a virtually failed Islamic state would refuse aid to Christian choorahs,
it is shameful and shocking that, as Morning Star News reports, some
Christians will not touch them either.
The fact is, though, no amount of status will protect a Pakistani Christian
from persecution. Indeed, intolerance and insecurity are escalating by the
day as the state reaps the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7) of three-and-a-half decades
of Saudi-funded 'Wahhabisation' and state sponsorship of regional terrorism.
Today, Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists are simply out of control - they
dictate to the state which stands powerless and paralysed before them, unable
to change anything even if it wanted to. Anyone who agitates for reform is
assassinated. Christians with means are fleeing in ever increasing numbers.
Sadly, many never find the life of liberty and security they crave.
A report to the British Parliament in February 2016 found that of some 11,500
Pakistanis seeking asylum in Thailand, the majority are Christian. Many are
locked up in appalling conditions; all are struggling unimaginably.
Compounding their troubles is the fact that, like persecuted Christian asylum
seekers the world over, they are provided with Muslim translators whose only
desire is to hinder and not help them. Pakistani Christian Ijaz Masih (35)
fled Pakistan in 2013. He travelled to Thailand with his wife and three
children to seek asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. World Watch
Monitor reports that, on 26 May 2017, Ijaz Masih died of a heart attack in
Thailand after being refused treatment. International Christian Voice founder
Peter Bhatti condemned the blatant disregard shown by Thai officials and the
UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees).
So who cares about Pakistani Christians? We know that God cares and we should
realise by now that, by and large, 'the world' does not. The Church - local
and global - must step up as God's human instruments to imitate Christ in
love and obedience and as a service to God who is Father to us all.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO
* fire up the local churches in Pakistan and the global Church in the world,
so Christians will stand as one, imitating Christ, demonstrating sacrificial
love and standing in courageous solidarity with Pakistan's suffering
'For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There
is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male
and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's,
then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.' (Galatians
* come to the aid of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers stranded in Thailand
and across South-East Asia.
* intervene in Pakistan so that what seems inevitable (victory for intolerant
fundamentalist Islam) will not come to pass; may God send 'the rod of [his]
anger' (Isaiah 10:5) against those who would shatter and scatter his precious