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Pakistan’s Chronic Pattern of Employment Discrimination against Christians

You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address www.www.persecution.org. Contact Jeff King President, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441, [email protected]

ICC (November 21, 2006) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.www.persecution.org has learned that Christians in Pakistan continue to experience discrimination from a majority of employers on a level akin to what African Americans experienced in the Southern US before the Civil Rights movement. In vocational terms, for Pakistanis, being a Christian means being a janitor, a brick-maker, or working in sewage. They are constantly denied jobs, not based on their merit, but based on their religion. Instead of racism, Pakistan excels in “religion-ism.”

Recent comments by the Catholic Archbishop of Pakistan, Lawrence J. Saldanha, have highlighted the severe discrimination that many Christians face when looking for jobs. The Archbishop delivered these comments while speaking at a ceremony held in connection with Prince Charles’s visit to the Anglican Cathedral Church of the Resurrection in Lahore on November 2.

A number of factors dim job prospects for Pakistani Christians – most of whom are condemned to do menial cleaning jobs due to their appalling socio-economic situation.

The reason Pakistani Christians do not obtain dignified jobs is not their inability to measure up to the criteria laid down for the jobs. Rather, in most cases, it is the hardened and intolerant mindsets of employers that thwart their upward social mobility.

The Lowest of the Low

Most Pakistani Christians work as janitors. They are born in slums deprived of even the most basic civic and health amenities. Even if a Christian obtains decent employment, his life-time efforts to rid himself of the ‘janitor label’ will prove futile. Some employers might be willing to hire talented Christians for certain jobs, but refuse because of the possibility of angering the majority-Muslim workforce. Thus they seal the continued marginalization of the Christian community.

The unfortunate fact that a large majority of Pakistani Christians eke out a living by doing jobs that are looked down upon by the society does not and should not mean that Pakistani Christians are condemned to do basic jobs. ‘Like and dislike’ of the existing Muslim workers may be one factor that goes against Christian candidates looking for jobs, but of more substantial importance is how a Muslim employer perceives Christians.

If only merit determined whether a person could obtain a job, the prospects for Christians assuming dignified jobs would become far better than what they are at present. The problem is that a candidate’s qualifications for the job are not a factor in job-hiring process. Instead, religious affiliation overrides the candidate’s abilities.

Educated Christians Can’t Find the Jobs They Trained to Do

Failing to obtain jobs that match their abilities, a sizable number of young educated Christian men and women resort to teaching at missionary schools. These young Christians fail to provide the best education since they only take up teaching as a profession after giving up their quest for the jobs they think they are made for. Seeing their faith as a hindrance in their drive for upward social mobility they develop a sense of deprivation, disillusionment, and a nagging inferiority complex.

Those from among the educated Christians who somehow or other do manage to gain jobs that interest them are vulnerable to implicit and explicit criticisms by their Muslim colleagues targeting their poor Christian background or their faith.

Christian girls aspiring to become nurses often face difficulties in getting admissions to government-run nursing schools. The same holds true for registered Christian nurses who find it difficult to find jobs in the government sector.

Some Muslim candidates who fail to outshine their Christian contenders because they lack talent ultimately secure their wanted jobs by giving bribe money and making use of the economic leverage they enjoy over Christians and members of other religious minority communities.

The Source of Discrimination: Semi-literate Muslim Clerics

All of this can be traced back to semi-literate Muslim clerics at hard-line religious schools who seem bent upon negatively influencing the minds of the majority of Muslims while they are young and impressionable. The young boarders of the religious schools are given religious education, but during their time at the Madrassahs (religious schools) they also learn lessons of intolerance that get so indelibly etched on their minds that they find it hard to unlearn them even if they want to at a later stage in life. The graduates of the radical religious schools perceive people of faiths other than Islam as their enemies.

Though they may realize the pernicious repercussions their actions may have on the already down-trodden minority communities, fundamentalist Muslim clerics continue to unleash hate propaganda both in the religious schools as well as in the mosques where they preach.

Given the credentials of most of the teachers at the radical Islamic religious schools, it is not hard to imagine to what extent the mind of a child entering a Madrassah would have been prejudiced against other faiths and their followers at the time of his exit from the school.

Constitutional Discrimination

Pakistan’s constitution denies non-Muslims the privilege of assuming the high-profile offices of the Speaker of the National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament), Chief of Army Staff, Prime Minister and President. While it is obvious that a constitutional amendment is required before non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan could aspire to these positions, the establishment of a culture of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths in the country could at least help the weaker segments of society attain jobs which are theoretically open to them.

Media and a Way Forward?

Some time back a Pakistani TV station was criticized by Christians for having a Muslim acting as a Christian given the role of a cleaner in one of the TV station’s programs.

The Pakistani Christian community expressed its anger, alleging that assigning the sweeper role to the actor acting as a Christian conveyed the message to the audience that Christians are only fit for janitorial jobs.

The TV station would have done better if it had aired a documentary featuring some great Pakistani Christians who served the country in respectable positions. It would not only give a sense of recognition to those featured in the documentary, but it would also help allay the sense of deprivation and disillusionment that affects most Pakistani Christians.

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