“The stone cross found in the mountains of Skardu-Baltistan indicates the presence of Christianity in northern Pakistan, already ten centuries ago. It is an important historical discovery and poses new challenges for more excavations to be carried out in this mountainous area where today there are no Christians”: this is what Fr. Bonnie Mendes, an elderly Pakistani priest, commenting the recent archaeological discovery to Fides News Agency that sheds new light on the history of the Christian presence in Pakistan.
A team from the University of Baltistan has announced that it has found traces of an ancient Christian presence in Skardu. The research team, led by Muhammad Naeem Khan, visited the site and found an ancient Christian cross. The university’s vice-chancellor, Muhammad Naeem Khan reported: “The huge cross, made of marble, weighs about 4 tons, and is six meters long; it was found two kilometers from the base camps, in the mountains around the Kardardo village of Skardu in the Baltistan division, overlooking the Indus river”. “According to the initial hypothesis – he adds – this cross could be from 1,000 to 1,200 years old. It is the first-ever discovery, in Baltistan, of such a find, which marks the association of this land with Christianity”.
The researcher informs that “the village of Kavardo was born 1500 years ago and there is the possibility that the marble stone used to make this cross may be older. And he concludes: “The University will contact European and North American universities and historians to discover the exact date of the cross carved from the rock using scientific methods”.
Gulshan Barkat OMI, professor of Church history in Pakistan, speaking to Fides, says: “The importance of this discovery is undeniable; we still need further excavations, for which I suggest the authorities to invite archaeologists and historians from the pontifical universities. We need to understand more, find out what stone this is, and check carbon dating to get exact data”. Linking the find to the history of Christianity in Central Asia, the historian adds: “There is a possibility that Nestorian missionaries settled in this region and crossed these territories to reach Iran, Afghanistan, and China in the 12th century”.