Religious tourism can only flourish when the state has zero tolerance for any digression of the laid down laws, protecting followers of other faiths and damaging the image of our country and its people.
Christians: Missionary Zeal and Colonial Legacy
Christianity is a major religion stemming from the life and teachings of Jesus, one of the Almighty’s Messengers. Christianity is both a living tradition of faith and culture that the faith leaves behind, and in everyday life, is reflected in the church and, the community of people who make up the body of believers. Pakistan is home to around 2,100,000 Christians, of which three-quarters live in the province of Punjab. The community has a history that goes back centuries and has made numerous contributions to the country’s military, education, and healthcare system. In the 1870s, the foreign missionaries working in Punjab, a historically prosperous agricultural province deep in the South Asian interior, reported the existence of a marginalized community whose religious worship bore a striking resemblance to Christianity. The Pakistani Christian community is also comprised of two smaller Christian associates; the Goans and the Anglo-Indians. The Goans are Roman Catholics from India’s Goa state. During the colonial era, many Goans migrated to Pakistan, especially Karachi, working for the British colonials.
Another set of Christians is the Anglo-Indians who are the descendants of European men and Indian wives. They have since formed their own distinct community and are notable for their preservation of many British customs, now forgotten by the British themselves. These communities, though small, made noteworthy contributions to nation-building in Pakistan. In terms of the Church, the Church of Pakistan is a denomination inaugurated in Pakistan in 1970, comprising former Anglican, Methodist, Scottish Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches and mission bodies. It is the only church in the world joining Lutherans with Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, and one of three in which Anglicans and Methodists unite, the others being the churches of North and South India. Next to the Roman Catholic church, the Church of Pakistan is the largest Christian body in a country that is 97 percent Muslim. Christian missions, in what is now Pakistan, originated in the 16th century, proselytizing among Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. Members of the church are mostly from lower income levels, often landless farm workers. In addition to initiating development projects, the Church of Pakistan provides teachers, social workers, and medical personnel. Most colleges and schools founded by this denomination have been nationalized.
In a country which bemoans inadequate attention to education, the role of the missionaries is commendable in bringing English medium education, to what was known as British India in 1854. The first Christian missionary school in the northern part of the subcontinent was established in 1849 at Rang Mehal in Lahore by Dr. Charles W. Forman.
Contribution to Education
In a country which bemoans inadequate attention to education, the role of the missionaries is commendable in bringing English medium education, to what was known as British India in 1854. The first Christian missionary school in the northern part of the subcontinent was established in 1849 at Rang Mehal in Lahore by Dr. Charles W. Forman. This school is still serving the nation under Christian administration. Forman was a celebrated scholar of his time who also established Forman Christian College (FCC) in Lahore in 1864. This college has always been regarded as a prestigious institution producing eminent scholars, politicians, bureaucrats, army officers, and industrialists. The churches continued their endeavors to develop more institutions with modern education. In fact, within fifty years, hundreds of institutions and an increasing number of students reflected the significance of education as the missionary objective. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is known to have studied at Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay and in Karachi, he attended the Christian Missionary Society High School.
After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, missionary schools were known for quality education. Admissions were given irrespective of any religious affiliation. The other esteemed institutions established by Christian missionaries include Church Mission School (CMS) in Karachi, Gordon College in Rawalpindi, Edwards College in Peshawar, Murray College in Sialkot, Kinnaird College in Lahore, and Burn Hall Schools in Abbottabad. These institutions are credited for having produced many Christian and Muslim supporters of the Pakistan Movement. Aside from providing good education, missionary schools are to be credited for being a source of interaction between various faiths. These institutions provided an opportunity for students from every social class and religion to come in contact with others, which helped in breaking barriers and developing harmony between the adherents of different religious denominations.
During the Quaid-e-Azam-led movement for Pakistan, Christians were also seen and heard chanting “long live Pakistan” during the elections in 1945-46. In acknowledgment and appreciation of these gestures, Christians were promised by the All India Muslim League that they would be offered more privileges than other minorities in Pakistan. As Jinnah cherished cordial relationships with eminent intellectuals, well-positioned Christians like Joseph Burr (a member of the viceroy’s council and an adviser to the nawab of Bhopal), Sir Samuel Rangandhar (High Commissioner in London), K. L. Kundan Lal (President of the All India National Congress), Reverend Andrews and John Bright, all favored and supported Jinnah in one way or another in the pursuit of his relentless struggle for the creation of Pakistan. History records that the majority of Christians supported the formation of Pakistan. Prominent Christian leaders of that time even argued before the Boundary Commission that in case of division, the Christians must be counted with the Muslims.
Aside from providing good education, missionary schools are to be credited for being a source of interaction between various faiths. These institutions provided an opportunity for students from every social class and religion to come in contact with others, which helped in breaking barriers and developing harmony between the adherents of different religious denominations.
When Jinnah founded Dawn newspaper in 1941 as a mouthpiece of the Muslim League to promote the Pakistan Movement, he appointed Pathan Joseph, a reputed journalist, its first editor. F. E. Chaudhry, the father of Squadron Leader Cecil Chaudhry, a war decorated pilot, was a photojournalist who promoted the movement by capturing historical moments. Subsequently, his decision to make his two sons join the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) reflected his love for Pakistan. Squadron Leader Cecil Chaudhry proved to be the pride of his father and the nation as a hero of the 1965 war. Joshua Fazaldin was another Christian intellectual and proponent of the Pakistan Movement, who wrote newspaper articles to promote Jinnah's vision. His passionate support of a separate homeland in his articles won the heart of Choudhry Rahmat Ali, when many Muslim leaders were thinking that it was an impractical notion. Dewan Bahadur S. P. Singha, another Christian intellectual, served as registrar of Punjab University and pushed for educational reforms in the region. Apart from his services in the field of education, he was also a good politician and became a speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly.
Notables who served Pakistan with great distinction include Manuel Misquita, former mayor of Karachi, and Alvin Robert Cornelius, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan and one of the most notable jurists of the country. The Christian community is known for its notable contribution to the armed forces and many members have served the country with pride and great distinction. Pakistan continues to remember with great pride the contribution of the Christians of Polish descent who joined the PAF. Among them was Air Commodore Turowicz, who was honored with many awards including the Sitara-i-Pakistan, the Tamgha-i-Pakistan, the Sitara-i-Khidmat, the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam, the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, the Abdus Salam Award in Aeronautical Engineering and the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Award in Space Physics. The PAF placed a memorial in honor of Air Commodore Turowicz at the PAF Museum, while Suparco established the Wladyslaw Turowicz Space Complex in Lahore.
Churches: Places of Worship and Community Get Together
Churches in Pakistan have always been noteworthy landmarks in all major towns and cities of the country. Crowds of worshippers, which includes families, can be seen assembling and entering the prominent buildings that house a particular church. The history of churches in Pakistan goes back to the 16th century when Christian missions began arriving in the subcontinent after the arrival of the East India Company. When Pakistan came into existence following the British rule, a number of churches established for the British Army officers and their families to congregate, became a part of the country. A majority of these churches are indeed stunning for any visitor and pride for any Christian, which were constructed during the British era. Therefore, the architecture and interior of these religious buildings mirror the designs of old English churches with striking turrets, majestic domes, and arched glass windows.
During their historic trip to the country back in the 1960s, the Late Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip also made headlines for visiting St. John’s Cathedral, Peshawar and offered services there.
Kalash: Unique Heritage
The Kalash people, also called by many names, i.e., Kafir (non-believer), Black Robe, and Siah Posh, live in the three sub-valleys of Kalash which include Bumboret, Rumbor, and Birir, in the modern-day District Chitral, Pakistan. The Kalasha are an ancient tribe of Pakistan and are indeed distinct, having their own way of life, religion, language, rituals, and their own identity. This part of Pakistan is considered to be a well-preserved ethnic and cultural museum. Owing to this value, Kalasha culture has been listed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for consideration as a World Heritage Site. The Kalasha culture is exclusive and tourists come here from all over the world to see the beauty of this unique culture. Each year, many historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and photographers from all over the world focus on the Kalasha society. The numerical strength of the Kalasha people is only about 4,000.
The history of Kalasha is disputed and there are many hypothesis about the origin of the Kalasha, tribe of Chitral. Until now, two major suppositions have been strongly developed about the origin of the Kalasha, i.e., Indo-Aryan origin and Greek origin. The hypothesis of Indo-Aryan origin is supported by known linguists and anthropologists such as, George Morgenstierne, R. C. F. Schomberg Karl Jettmar, and Peter Parkes. While other hypotheses give the impression that the Kalasha are relatively recent newcomers or Greeks in origin. This suggestion was formulated by H. Siiger and is supported by two French anthropologists, Jeans Yves Loude and Viviane Lievre.
Culture and Language
There are two types of religious events in the Kalasha society. The first kind may be considered as having a religious ceremony as well as festivities, while other events are only religious in nature, without dancing and singing. The culture of Kalash people is unique and differs drastically from the various ethnic groups surrounding them. They are polytheists and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life. As a part of their religious tradition, sacrifices are offered and festivals are held to give thanks for the abundant resources of their three valleys. Kalash mythology and folklore have been compared to that of ancient Greece, but they are much closer to Indo-Iranian (Vedic and pre-Zoroastrian) traditions.
Today, the Kalasha community is in transition under the pressure of modernization, and it seems that this beautiful culture will vanish if it is not preserved by international and national agencies and governments. Tourism now makes up a large portion of the economic activities of Kalash. To cater to these new visitors, small stores and guest houses have been erected, providing new luxury for visitors to the valleys. People attempting to enter the valleys have to pay a toll to the Government of Pakistan, which is used to preserve and care for the Kalash people and their culture.
Pakistan, Where Your Spiritual Journey Begins
Seven decades of Pakistan suffices a country, even though a fledgling by historical standards, to share its wildest and most beautiful landscapes. It has largely succeeded in putting its name on the globe as a country worth discovering, and exciting adventures to be explored. Mountaineers around the world have recognized that the mountains are fabulous, and their peaks are indeed a paradise for mountaineers and climbers, who have a passion for climbing the peaks of dreamy mountains. Globally known hiking expeditions have been generous in their appreciation.
Any researcher of Pakistan’s history can vouch for the robust messages on national and other special days shared by the leadership with the public, on the significance of Quaid’s message of religious tolerance and discipline. The regret is that successive governments in Pakistan and its leadership has ignored, even though unwittingly, the unexplored Asian religiocultural treasure tourism trove which Pakistan is. The Quaid’s message to the followers of other religions in Pakistan of “freedom of going to their places of worship and having nothing to do with the business of State” and holding steadfast to ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline” in the daily lives of the state have not been put into practice. The result is that the state has not given significance to its citizens of other faiths, their places of worship, and the rainbow cultures that they have brought with them, and have sent the wrong message to the majority population of their preponderance to their belief and their places of adulation. The constitution treats all citizens of the state equally and its implementation in the daily lives of the state can bring bounties of tolerance and coexistence.
The Road Ahead: Promises to Keep
Reinventing Pakistan is no easy task. It requires the cooperation and collaboration of all segments of the society, including the government, civil society, and the private sector. It also requires a fundamental shift in how Pakistanis think about their country and their role in it. Only by working together and embracing a shared vision of the future can Pakistan genuinely fulfill its potential. The first step towards achieving this goal is to redefine what the national dream means to the people of Pakistan. This requires a collective vision based on inclusivity, diversity, and mutual respect. The journey of sharing the rainbow in Pakistan needs to start with the schools, where the curriculum is required to focus on the advantages of religious tolerance and among the general public and businesses the benefits of tourism related to places of worship of religions, other than those of Muslims; generation of employment and promotion of businesses. Government agencies delegated with the duty to promote tourism are to be entrusted with the task to co-opt representatives of other faiths and their organizations, department of archeology and Evacuee Trust to prepare well-researched and eye-catching brochures, and distribute to all our diplomatic missions abroad and at all airports. Our diplomatic missions have to be given an adequate budget and tasked to hold seminars and promote religious tourism. A Karachi-based tour operator under the banner of ‘Diversity Tours’ has been taking students in ‘super savari express buses’ to historic churches, temples, and mosques. The aim of these tours is to spread awareness of other faiths as it rightly believes that ‘lack of knowledge has led to the intolerance that we currently see in our society’. This initiative can be emulated in other cities and towns, with the full support of the state. Religious tourism can only flourish when the state has zero tolerance for any digression of the laid down laws, protecting followers of other faiths and uplifting the image of our country and its people. Upholding the law shall bring the news of ‘hate mongers’ emanating from Pakistan to the desired zero.
The tyranny of geography has placed Pakistan in a neighborhood where it has little to choose from the states with which it shares its boundaries. The result has been mixed. The unsettled conditions in Afghanistan since 1979, aggravated due to the 9/11 events, had a toxic impact on Pakistan’s tourism such as the negative news emanating from the neighboring country was clubbed with Pakistan and it is still reeling from that impact. Not only has Pakistan and its people suffered in terms of the economic loss of revenue, but also the foreign tourists who were deprived of the “unexplored Asian religiocultural treasure trove” that Pakistan offers. In brief, Pakistan rightly deserved to be included in the list of one of the world's most culturally rich countries. Let the journey begin by highlighting the best practices of our religion and the message of Quaid-e-Azam–both teach tolerance and respect for other religions. Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is known to be pursuing a plan to boost religious tourism for promoting interfaith harmony and revenue generation. It has also pointed out that some visa policy and security issues need to be tackled for creating the conducive environment for international tourists to contribute a due share of earning from this industry. To promote the “treasure trove” of relgiocultural tourism, a good beginning has been made very recently. A large number of people have come to the joint Pakistan-China exhibition in Beijing which is showcasing the traditional heritage of Gandhara at the Palace Museum. The Palace Museum and Pakistan’s National Heritage and Culture Division’s Department of Archaeology and Museums collaborated to arrange the exhibition, “Gandhara Heritage along the Silk Road.” The display included a vast range of sculptures, relics, and other things that were emblematic of Gandharan culture. Moin ul Haque, the Ambassador of Pakistan, was enthusiastic that the exhibition had sparked a lot of interest among the Chinese citizens. Trust our other missions shall take this cue and work with the concerned organizations to promote Pakistan’s relgiocultural tourism, which in brief is its soft image.
The writer holds a Masters in Political Science (Punjab University) and Masters in Diplomatic Studies (UK). He has served in various capacities in Pakistan’s missions abroad and as an Ambassador to Vietnam and High Commissioner to Malaysia. He is on the visiting faculty of four mainstream public universities in Islamabad and Adviser to the India Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.
E-mail: [email protected]
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