CHRISTIANITY IN PAKISTAN

According to tradition, the Parthian king Gondo phares was proselytized by St. Thomas, the Apostle, who continued on to Kerala in South India.

In 1877, on St. Thomas' Day at Westminster Abbey, London, Rev Thomas Valpy French was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Lahore, a large diocese which included all of the Punjab, then under British colonial rule, and remained so until 1887, during this period he also opened the Divinity College, Lahore in 1870.Rev Thomas Patrick Hughes served as a Church Missionary Society missionary at Peshawar (1864–84), and became an oriental scholar, and compiled a 'Dictionary of Islam' (1885).

Missionaries accompanied colonizing forces from Portugal, France, and Great Britain. Christianity was mainly brought by the British rulers of India in the later 18th and 19th century. This is evidenced in cities established by the British, such as the port city of Karachi, where the majestic St. Patrick's Cathedral, Pakistan's largest church stands, and the churches in the city of Rawalpindi, where the British established a major military cantonment. All of the modern Christians in Pakistan are descended from converts from during British rule.

The Europeans won small numbers of converts to Anglicanism, Methodism, the Lutheran Church and Catholicism from the native populations. Islam was very strong in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province, but small native communities of converts to Christianity were formed. The largest numbers came from resident officers of the British Army and the government. European and wealthy native Christians established colleges, churches, hospitals and schools in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. There is a large Catholic Goan community in Karachi which was established when Karachi's infrastructure was developed by the British before World War II, and the Irish(who were subjects of the British Empire and formed a large part of the British Army) were an important factor in the establishment of Pakistan's Catholic community.

When political independence was won by the people of the South Asia in 1947, the organization and activities of the Christian community changed drastically. Christians in Punjab and Sindh had been quite active post 1945 in their support for Muhammad AliJinnah's Muslim League. Even before the final phase of the movement, leading Indian Christians like Pothan Joseph had rendered valuable services as journalists and propagandists of the Muslim League. Jinnah had repeatedly promised all citizens ofPakistan complete equality of citizenship, but this promise was not kept by his successors. Pakistan became an Islamic Republic in 1956, making Islam the source of legislation and cornerstone of the national identity, while guaranteeing freedom of religion and equal citizenship to all citizens. In the mass population exchanges that occurred between Pakistan and India upon independence due to conflict between Muslims and followers of Indian religions, most Hindus and nearly all Sikhs fled the country, but the Christians remained.

Christians have made some contributions to the Pakistani national life. Pakistan's first non-Muslim and certainly most respected Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court was Justice A. R. Cornelius. Pakistani Christians also distinguished themselves as great fighter pilots in the Pakistan Air Force. Notable amongst them are Cecil Chaudhry, Peter O'Reilly and Mervyn L Middlecoat. Christians have also contributed as educationists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen. One of Pakistan's cricketer, Yousuf Youhana, was also Christian, but he recently willingly converted to Islam, taking upon the Islamic name Mohammad Yousuf. In Britain, the Bishop emeritus of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, is a Pakistani Christian.

Apart from the Catholics, Christians of other denominations re-organized themselves, in India, into the Churches of North and South India respectively, and as the Church of Pakistan in 1948. Politically, groups like the Pakistan Christian Congress have arisen. The New Apostolic Church also has followers in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country which is rich in culture and religion. Islam is the major religion but along with it there are other minorities like Christians, Hindu, Sikh, Ahmadis, Chitrals, and Afghans etc. Christians are the largest minority community in Pakistan. They constitute about 1.6%of the Pakistan's population.

Christianity in Asia has its roots in the very inception of Christianity, which originated with Jesus Christ, and then spread through the missionary work of his apostles. Christianity first expanded in the Levant, taking roots in the major cities such as Jerusalem and Antioch. According to tradition, further eastward expansion occurred via the preaching of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who established Christianity in the Parthian Empire (Iran) and India.

According to Eusebius' record, the apostles Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia (modern Iran) and India. By the time of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (AD 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan(including parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.