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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Between a rock and a hard place!

By – Shamim Masih

ISLAMABAD: Doing journalism in the country like Pakistan, which is dominated by Muslim religious extremist, is not easy, especially when you write about religious minorities. Pakistan is perhaps ranked the third most dangerous country for reporting. The country also has one of the highest numbers of journalists threatened, kidnapped and killed.

Before partition, the vision of the Muhammad Ali Jinnah was of a nation that would adopt secularism to accommodate its historically multi-religious and culturally diverse population. The Christians chose to stay back were assured of security and basic equal rights. Sadly, what is happening is at total variance to the vision. Today, the very existence of these communities is under threats. It seems that Pakistan exist as an Islamic state, comprising only of Sunni State like Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has been carrying out the most insidious ethnic cleaning over the last four decades right under the eyes of the world.

My aim is to create a peaceful environment in the society and to help eliminate human rights violation / persecution through my writing as I bring the plight of those brave people under spotlight of the whole world.
Pakistan, where those working to change an incredibly hostile climate for free speech have found themselves under fierce attack. So in this situation journalists do not dare to write about these activities.
Being a Christian journalist, it is indeed become more dangerous to write on minorities’ issues. Many newsrooms forbid their journalists from reporting these kids of incidents. So it happens with me as well. Apart from my routine work, I usually write on minorities issues. So during my working with different papers in the country (knowingly I not mentioning the names), my editor told me to keep it low profile or stop it for a while, and if I had to, it would go without by byline.

Threat is routine matter; I even don’t mention this kind of phone calls or anything like this. People know me and know that even if it is without by byline, that I am doing it. Some time, they ask me, to whom you are working for; my answer is simple, for Christ Jesus. No one can stop me until its God will. I work as diplomatic correspondents, also covering foreign office and Parliament House additional I do for my paper. Apart from my office responsibilities, I raise the voice of the most deprived portion of the society. They are usually called “chooras” (derogatory term used for Christians in Pakistan, also among the poorest sections of society and consigned to menial janitorial jobs). Some time they use this word for me as well, even if it is not in my presence but I know the mentality of the stiff mind-set.

It is quite distressing to see a region that has for millenniums been the hub of civilization and religious integration, with an abiding heritage of multi ethnicity and linguistic/cultural diversity, degenerate into a fanatical society in such a short span of time. It is astounding to see how some fanatical groups have converted rich diversity into a liability. But it will make no difference; threats are hazards of this job living in an increasingly intolerant society. The most painful is the attitude of Christian religious leadership behavior towards its congregation. Missionary schools have expelled the Christian students from their school. Christian institutions have hired squad of Muslims while Christian skilled and deserving youngsters are jobless. Those who are responsible are not the visionary intellectuals and thinkers of the society; they are fringe elements seeking to further their business, economic and political interests by playing politics of sectarian hatred.

The world need to take cognizance of the genocide that is slowly taking place in Pakistan. The responsibility on United State of America is all the more acute; while being concerned about all the groups that are suffering, special attention has to be given to the Christian communities and to the people who are really deserving.     

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