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ICC Note:

A recent public service announcement in Pakistan has shown how Christians are widely discriminated against. The Lahore Waste Management Company encouraged people not to litter during a Christian holiday because most of the city’s waste management workers, commonly called street sweepers, would be on holiday. This shows the disproportionate number of Christians hired and working in waste management in Pakistan. 

09/12/2017 Pakistan (Daily Times) – A Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) public service advertisement has highlighted systemic discrimination suffered by the Christian community of the country. The ad – that appeared in national dailies over the weekend – requested residents to avoid throwing waste on streets and open spaces on September 9 and 10 ‘as the Christian community is observing their annual pilgrimage of Mariamabad’.

It asked residents to not throw garbage on streets on those two days because sanitary workers were away on leave. Researcher Asif Aqeel said the ad was meant to give out an advance warning to the public. He said it could have been more offensive if the company had not made it a point to wish the Christian community on the occasion as well. “It would have been offensive if they would have just said that sanitation work will remain suspended because the workers were busy with their religious festival,” he said.

Aqeel said that the ad had had brought to limelight the history of discrimination suffered by the community. “Why has one particular community been associated with the profession? Why is the derogatory term churra synonymous with Christian in Pakistan,” he asks.

These are questions on which Aqeel has conducted extensive research as well. He said that the issue was related to the social institution of caste that has existed in this region for thousands of years.

With the onset of British colonial administration, though, untouchables in India had converted to Christianity en masse, he said. In Punjab, they were employed as wage laborers and helpers on farms owned by Sikhs.

On partition, most of these Sikh landlords migrated to India, leaving these Christians – approximately around 330,000 in number – out of employment as these farms got allotted to Muslim migrants from East Punjab. Aqeel’s research shows that the government had deliberately pushed these Christians into sanitation jobs left vacant by the migration of low-caste Hindus.

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