The Legacy of Pakistan’s Christian Ghettos
Due to widespread discrimination, Pakistani Christians often cluster together in poor urban slums. Working as day laborers or sanitation workers, these Christians scrape a living working on the lowest rung of Pakistan’s social ladder. After generations of living in these “Christian ghettos”, a poverty and subservient mindset has settled into the consciousness of many Pakistani Christians.
Catholic Samuel Daniel was a farmer until 2011 when he moved to populous Lahore, the capital of eastern Pakistan’s Punjab province.
“I was making furrows at night when something bit me,” Daniel relates. “The next day my right leg swelled to the size of a tree trunk. I spent several months trying different treatments, but it worsened.”
Daniel, 43, told ucanews.com that, to avoid amputation, he sold his home to pay for surgery. Although doctors cured his leg, they could not save his livelihood and the tractor driver sank into debt. He was unable to pay for three meals a day or the educational expenses of his four children.
He moved from Amritnagar village in Punjab to Bahar Colony, a rundown Christian neighborhood of Lahore near an open sewage drain. He is one of millions of villagers who have moved to big cities such as Lahore and Karachi in an attempt to escape poverty.
He works as a daily-wage construction laborer and rents a small house in a narrow, dirty street. He cannot afford to return to the green fields and fresh air of his village. Construction stops on rainy days, so the monsoon season significantly reduces earnings. Due to his weakened leg, sometimes Daniel falls while carrying heavy loads such as concrete or bricks.
Yet he is still reluctant to send his children to government-owned schools despite the fact that they provide free education, textbooks and uniforms.
“Only Christian church-run schools offer catechism classes. I want my children to study in a Christian environment where they can develop self-confidence as students on an equal footing to others,” he said.
Daniel’s children attend a school run by a Protestant group that does not charge fees, but purchasing textbooks and stationery is still difficult.
According to Father Francis Gulzar, the vicar general of Lahore, poor Christians generally prefer to live in slums where rents are low and they are close to relatives.