ISLAMABAD: A majority of members of the Christian community in Islamabad faced immense hardships while celebrating Christmas, mainly due to spiralling inflation that has crippled them financially, as they are usually given the most menial jobs.
Shahzad Masih, working with a private organisation, said a large number of Christians living in slums of the federal capital along with their families were all starving. “They have completed their education but still they are jobless, as most often they are denied governmental jobs and support,” he said.
“We are deliberately sidelined in this country... Even after graduation, we’re denied good positions at governmental institutions in even in Islamabad, leave alone other cities where there is no one to highlight our plights.”
He said that the members of the Christian community were offered very low-paid jobs – of labourers and janitors – by various institutions like the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in Islamabad. “At good institutions, if there is a clerical or security guard’s job, they won’t give it to a Christian,” he claimed.
It may be mentioned here that in the heart of the federal capital, around 500 Christian families live in shacks and mud houses. They are settled between Sectors G6 and G7.
During a visit to the area, it was observed that the dwellers had no access to clean drinking water and other basic amenities of life. Most of them rely on bushes and logs to cook and stay warm during the winter season, as they do not have access to gas.
According to estimates, some 50,000 people living in 22 slums across Islamabad have no access to most of the basic facilities of life, like clean drinking water, electricity, gas and sewerage system.
Yousif Masih, sharing the details of his Christmas activities, said that these were very testing times for Christians in Islamabad. “It’s Christmas but still half of us struggle to manage two times’ meal,” he said.
Christians in the capital mostly reside in slums and on the banks of nullahs. They live in abject poverty and their lifestyle has not changed over the years; a large number of them still work as janitors and sweepers.
However, sitting outside a mud house, 64-year-old Sharjeel Masih is full of hope that their condition will improve one day.
“I hope we will be able to celebrate Christmas with full religious zeal and enthusiasm. I hope people and our churches will be secured in the future. I wish for the availability of basic facilities and equal treatment, after all we are human beings first,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite all odds, slum dwellers celebrated Christmas with great enthusiasm.
Christmas trees were decorated with lights and colourful baubles in Christian colonies, outside shopping malls and alongside important roads.
Big gatherings were held at the St Thomas’ Church, Our Lady of Fatima Church on Kaghan Road, Protestant International Church and other churches across the city. Special ceremonies and masses were also scheduled for the day.
The faithful started the day with special prayers at the Cathedral churches at around 12:15pm, while at Protestant churches at 11:30am.
Over in Rawalpindi, Commissioner Khalid Masood and District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sajid Zafar along with senior police officials visited all the churches and checked security arrangements.
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