By Stephen Silas Gill
Editor’s note: Stephen Silas Gill is a resident of Lahore, Pakistan, and an avid reader of Christian Living Magazine. Gill was eager to be a part of the publication and was invited to submit an article on what it’s like being a believer of Jesus in his homeland. The following is the article he submitted on that topic, and it is an eye-opener for those of us living in the U.S.
As the headline says, “Living in poverty – Christians in Pakistan,” I will elaborate on the details and the hardships these people face in their lives. This article is all about the pain and suffering of Christians in Pakistan. I will explain the hardships of Christians in detail.
I understand how poor people feel because I don’t just see them in trouble; I can feel how they deal with it. I’m 25 years old now, and I started observing things and keeping them in my intellect when I was a kid in school. I am glad and thankful that it didn’t break me. I am praising the Lord in my city of Lahore; I have the crown of eternal life.
I am always around strange people, looking for familiar faces. I only pray to the Lord; I’m not trying to show anyone my tears. I lost so many things and emotions in life. As a child, I made adult decisions. How do I know when love is real? I figured out that life is a journey that doesn’t come with road signs. I have seen the separation of my parents, and that has buried all of my dreams.
Memories have bothered me since I was a child. There are a lot of things to talk about in my life, but in this article, I’m explaining the hardships of the poor and depressed Christian community in my city. I am thankful for my life because I learned from it. Every bad moment, every single day of it, I thank God for the pain because it made me strong.
Man’s humanity ends when he begins to laugh at the sufferings of others. The human heart hurts a lot with every pain, but man learns a lot from every pain. We then turn to God when the world has rejected us. Life is a story in which you don’t get the characters you want. Life is weird; sometimes it’s like flowers, sometimes it’s like thorns. I see people struggling, working, and starving. I know how many challenges my poor Christian brothers and sisters face in Pakistan. I have seen Christians in Pakistan starving but praising God in hard situations.
I have seen some brothers start taking drugs. I am watching their parents battle with addiction. I just want to be a voice for poor and depressed Christians. If you look closely, Jesus came to be with the world’s poorest and most depressed people. When I see my Christian brothers and sisters suffering, I pray to God in silence, so no one thinks I am complaining to the Lord.
Thank God, my hardworking Christian brothers and sisters don’t believe in luck. They all believe in work, not in luck. In Pakistan, we have so many young boys and girls with precious talents. They are good in education, sports, and business. I really want to explain that the majority of Christians in Pakistan don’t get any appropriate opportunities to get a standard education. Many families go through so much pain and suffering to earn food. These families, including children, suffer a lot to earn a minimum wage.
Christian girls and boys work hard in private surgical factories. During their work, they face a lot of discrimination because of their faith in Christ. In Pakistan, more than 95% of the population is Muslim. The menial task of sweeping falls mainly on the Christian community. Street sweeping has traditionally been the job of Christians in Pakistan. Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, notions of its uncleanliness have ensured that sanitation jobs are reserved for non-Muslims. Thousands of Christians and Hindus are our “work jars” or temporary workers. Most of them have been working for over ten years without any benefits, insurance, or pensions. More than 10,000 Christians work for the Lahore waste management company, a recently privatized venture in charge of cleaning a city of more than 12 million people, of which 2% are Christians.
Christian sweepers are discriminated against both by Muslims and by fellow Christians engaged in other professions. The work is grueling, and the sweeper wears no mask or gloves to protect him from the stinking sludge and toxic plumes of gas that lurk deep underground. The case of Christian sweepers highlights a number of issues. Many Christians feel they are left with no choice but to work as sweepers. In many cases, this occupation is passed down from generation to generation.
Christians in Pakistan are also laboring at the brick kilns. Most of the children working or living with their parents at brick kilns have no schooling and therefore cannot read or write. Desperate times call for desperate measures. They get a small loan in times of desperation from the brickyard owners. The interest is set at such a huge amount that they will never be able to repay the debt with such small earnings. So they become “bound laborers,” which usually lasts a lifetime. They will slave through some of the most intense heat waves during the summer months.
Many workers suffer from heat stroke. Temperatures are generally around 40° C (104° F). There is no escape for the brickyard slave. If they were to run away, then their family would be in great danger. Torture and murder would be the usual punishment. It is also common to be born into slavery. The children will be forced to repay the parents’ debt, brick by brick.
Pakistani Christian brick kiln slaves are also living in some of the poorest conditions in the world. Getting clean water is a daily task. The hardships that Pakistan’s Christian community are facing are caused by a lack of leadership and education; there is no one to protect their rights. The Christian members of the national and provincial assemblies get selected by the government. So that’s the reason that Christians don’t have any leadership.
These Christian members of government aren’t elected by the Christian community’s votes; all of them get selected by the majority political parties of Pakistan. The Christian members don’t talk about the challenges that minorities face; they only talk about their selectors. They don’t discuss the rights of Pakistan’s Christian community. The majority of Pakistani Christians want and are fighting for an election process for genuine Christian political leaders. The Christian community wants to elect their political Christian leaders with their votes.
The parents and community leaders have initiated school lessons on the dusty floors around the slums. Historically, Christians have been converted from oppressed and impoverished classes. There were no rich Hindus or rich Muslims who got converted; they were all from classes that are poor and depressed, living almost like slaves on the land of Muslim or, in past days, Hindu landlords.
In Pakistan, the Christian community doesn’t have enough sources of daily income. They are dependent on daily wages, private employment, private businesses, or private offices. Pakistan has taken a few steps to protect and empower some minorities, but the efforts have failed to help much. A bill was passed in 2009 to reserve 5% of all government jobs for non-Muslims. But over a decade later, that goal has not been reached. In Pakistan, with limited resources, providing an education for the sweepers’ children takes a backseat. Thus, the vicious circle of poverty is repeated. They haven’t sent any of their children to school because they are too poor. They are literally starving. The lack of education is the basic reason why they face a lot of challenges.
In Pakistan, Christians don’t get any appropriate opportunity to get a standard education. They don’t even have enough to eat. How is it possible for them to reach the standard level of education? Mostly in slums, Christian girls don’t see any hope of getting a proper education. They go to work instead of going to school because they know that their parents are not able to afford an education. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to get an education, but it’s hard for them to afford it. Education is not that expensive, but still, it’s hard for some people to get it. I have been in touch with a few Christian girls in my town. They want to go to school but are unable to pay for it. There are numerous young Christian girls from slums who don’t even have enough to eat or dress.
We can make a real impact on the quality of life and education for the children living in brickyards. The children will be provided with quality educational materials to help them learn, grow, read and write. Much-needed food and drink can be distributed to Christian brickyard children and families. Many families live on staples throughout the week, while working long, hard days. A good meal and drink can be a true blessing.
Clothing can be a problem within the brickyard communities. Some children have none at all; many children can be clothed. Also, hot weather protection such as hats will help prevent heat stroke for workers in the severe Pakistan heat. Bible distribution and evangelism throughout Pakistan is critical. Urdu-language Bibles are not cheap, but we can make a big difference. Along with receiving a foundational education, it’s crucial that students regularly receive instruction in the Bible and spirituality. “He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life” (1 John 5:12). Not only freedom through Christ, but our prayer is that we can help as many of our brothers and sisters be free from slavery also.
We can pray about their debts and free them from a life of bonded labor and hardship as brick slaves. Please pray that the exploitation of our brothers and sisters will soon come to an end. Your love, prayers, and support are required to let them know that Jesus loves them.
Stephen Silas Gill is an author, speaker, youth leader, social worker, and volunteer. He is serving God at Smyrna Church of Pakistan. He is encouraging those believers living in non-Christian states around the world. He is inspiring and uplifting the Christians who have suffered because of their religious convictions. His small church in Pakistan is dedicated to advancing the kingdom of God. He is working to expand his ministry and spread God’s kingdom. For more information about his work, contact him at [email protected].