Bleeding the white in our flag
THE Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore was meant to do many things. One of them was killing Christians. There is no punishment in Pakistan for hooliganism, or barbarianism, or wanton thuggery. You can attack the PTV headquarters, attack the parliament building, attack the Supreme Court building ( yes, prime minister, we have not forgotten). You can destroy shops, and burn cars. You can set fire to metro stations. There is no punishment for any of this. But if you are a Pakistani Christian? That's a crime that will be punished.
If we cannot conjure up the moral courage to accept the criminal negligence of Christian places of worship, or Christian women and children, of Christian businesses and communities, then we should stop all the high-brow analysis of how long this war will take. It is a never-ending nightmare. Moral obfuscation is not just a linear problem. It is a spiritual crime. In the land of Bulleh Shah, Rehman Baba, Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Bahauddin Zakariya, and Hazrat Daata Ganj Baksh, such crimes will never go unpunished. Never. If Pakistan is enduring pain and agony, at least some of this is a product of our criminal neglect of our duty to protect - at all costs, under all circumstances - Pakistani Christians.
Whatabouters will ask: why only Christians? Of course, not only Christians. But to conflate all the other injustices wreaked upon all the other communities in our country as I write these words on Easter Monday would be an obfuscation too. Early reports suggest that the Lahore Easter Sunday attack saw more fatalities of Muslims than it did of Christians. That too is an obfuscation. The terrorists that took responsibility for the attack specifically talk about their bloodlust for Christians observing Easter.
Why Christians? Because it is the pure white of our star, crescent and stripe. Because the brand of patriotism in Pakistan that emanates from the churches in this country is unique, and unparalleled. No one quite flew a plane fighter plane for the Islamic Republic like Cecil Chaudhry did. No one served justice in the Islamic Republic quite like Alvin Robert Cornelius did. No one sang milli naghmas quite the way the Nerissa, Sheema and Shabana Benjamin did. No one stood for the oppressed, and the voiceless, quite like Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti did.
When wealthy and wannabe wealthy Pakistanis that struggle for clarity about the victims and enemies after a terrorist attack think of the best schools for their children, they think of the Convent of Jesus and Mary, or Saint Joseph's or Saint Patrick's. When Pakistani hospitals think of the best nurses for their doctors and patients, they think of Christian nurses. When we need the stains cleaned off of things, so often, so readily, we turn to Christians. The blood stains on the white on our flag? It will be Christians that will wipe it off.
Let's not lose perspective. As Anthony Permal noted in a poignant note on Facebook, the blood running through Christian veins in the aftermath of the Lahore Easter Sunday bombing is from Muslim veins. Muslim Lahoris thronged hospitals searching for victims that they could help. Muslims decency and charity and humanity doesn't check the religion of victims where it counts, when it counts. In hospitals and dispensaries in Lahore on Easter Sunday - that much was clear.
But let's also maintain perspective. Less than a year ago, Youhanabad's cup had runneth over. After the twin suicide attacks on churches in Youhanabad, the ugliness was so deep that we could not wait for the next attack, so we could stop talking about that one. Before that, was All Saints Church in Peshawar. All three took place on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar's watch. If you were a Christian, how would you react to a reminder about the fact that it was "Pakistanis" that were targeted in Youhanabad, in Peshawar All Saints, or on Easter Sunday at Gulshan-e-Iqbal? How would you find descriptions of the security situation having improved dramatically? How would you get up from where you were sitting, without wanting collapse back down? Bruised, battered, and broken at the knowledge that your brothers and sisters in faith were being targeted for their faith?
As Pakistani Muslims, this should not be so hard. For decades, we have kind of bled with Palestinians and Kashmiris. Not actually bleeding, but we have felt their pain and their agony. When Muslims in Myanmar are hunted down by Buddhist terrorists, we feel the searing pain they feel. In our mosques, each Friday, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Yemen. When we are shown pictures of children being killed in school shootings in the United States, some of us respond with pictures of children killed in drone strikes in the tribal areas. All fair. All real.
Surely, we know and understand and appreciate the concept of empathy - of stepping into someone else's shoes to feel their pain and their agony. Surely it cannot be so hard then to frame the Easter Sunday attack correctly. This week, just for a moment, perhaps we should feel for Pakistani Christians. What is it like to be a fourteen year old Christian boy in Pakistan? Knowing about Youhanabad. Knowing about All Saints. Knowing about Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Mind you. This is a fourteen-year-old boy. All that burden is in addition to worrying about growing up. About wanting to buy nice things. About wanting to take care of his sister and his mother. About feeling proud of our F-16s on March 23. And about processing his anger. This week, just for a moment, let's also feel for Christians in far-away lands. In Ethiopia, and Russia, and Wales, and yes, even America.