By Tabassum Yousaf, ACN
Robin Mahanga is a 16-year-old Catholic 10th grader at St. Paul’s High School in Karachi, Pakistan. Like youth of his age around the world, he loves listening to music and reading books with compelling stories. But Robin lives in a country where Christians are a tiny minority whose members are treated as second-class citizens; they are vulnerable to violence at the hands of Islamist extremists. Many faithful, like Robin, live in a state of permanent insecurity. On the bright side, Robin, along with his sister and parents, lives in a Karachi neighborhood where Christians are safe—it is a district that is home to Christian cleaners for the Indian Coast Guard, an institution that lends protection to its workers, many of whom live in officers’ servant quarters.
Still, Robin is struggling:
“I am not safe in Pakistan because of terrorism, and there is the snatching of mobile phones at gunpoint. Then there is the blasphemy law. I know two people who were accused under the law: one fellow is Raja, a former neighbor. He was a college student and his fellow students made false allegations; they claimed he disgraced the holy book of Islam and talked rubbish about it. He had to stop attending college to avoid dire consequences. Today he works in a factory and he no longer has a bright future.
“The second person is Noman, an 8th-grade student, whose fellow students made false allegations that he was saying foolish things about Islam. His teachers and his principal expelled him from the school.
“I am always in fear that I will become a victim of the blasphemy law or that my family will suffer because of it. I don’t want to stay in Pakistan—as Christians we are not respected by Muslims, who discriminate against us, referring to us with terms like bhangies or choarhy, which means that Christians are people whose only job is to clean gutters. We are considered the lowest ranking members of society, people with whom Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink. School textbooks paint a terrible picture of Christians, too.
“I want to become a banker and help my country become more peaceful. I keep hoping for change, but always fear that whoever speaks for peace and harmony ends up getting killed in this country. I want our schools to get equipped with modern technology, and I want our farmers to have access to modern equipment to save time and labor and make their lives better.
“The rest of the world only sees Pakistanis as terrorists. All of us need to unite to make our country more safe and peaceful. I wish Christians could get a better education, so they can get respectable jobs and can have bright futures.
“My message to Christians in the West is that I wish they would help us live safe, free and peaceful lives in Pakistan so that we have equal chances to learn about modern technology. I want to tell world leaders to make this world more peaceful and beautiful—because God made this world beautiful and wants all people to live beautiful and peaceful lives. Let there be no more wars at all!
“No matter what, though, I always have hope and faith in God. My most joyful moments are when I spend time with my sister—she is my happiness! And I keep a rosary on me and when I am in fear or in pain, I always pray: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven.’”
Tabassum Yousaf writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international papal charity providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org(IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)