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Monday, June 1, 2015

Asia’s highest cross in Pakistan, congratulations.

ASIA'S TALLEST CROSS IN PAKISTAN | FOUNDATION FOR PLURALISM 
http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2015/06/asias-highest-cross-in-pakistan.html

This is good news, and a  good step forward. I hope with this Pakistan's tradition of Pluralism is rekindled. Let all religions flourish, let God be honored in every which way he can .  As any minority anywhere in the world, the Christian community of Pakistan has gone out of the way to build relationships with the majority and it is time to recognize this. Let the Government of Pakistan protect this monument.

When Barack Obama  became President of the United States, he gave hope to the world, that in a civilized nation, a person's skin color, religion, financial or minority status does not matter, as long as the person has the merit to serve the nation. Islam teaches and the Prophet reinforced the ideals of equal opportunity, access, schooling, housing, jobs or retirement with simple words in his last sermon - no discrimination of any kind and no one is superior to the other.  I am glad to see this cross, it is symbolic.

I hope someday,  the people will rise and make Pakistan once again a civil society and rip the discriminatory laws. I also hope some day a  Christian, Hindu, Sikh or an Ahmadi can become head of the state and uplift the psyche of the nation. Indonesia has done that with Djoko as its president.  That is a pinnacle achievement of a civil society.

I am delighted with this good news, as a Pluralist, may be some of us from Dallas join them in celebrating the opening of the cross.

May God bless Pakistan and  a genuine democracy emerge.

Mike Ghouse
www.foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com 
www.StandingupforOthers.com 

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Asia’s highest cross in Pakistan: A fitting tribute to selfless Christian community

May 29, 2015, 4:29 PM IST  in Gray Areas | World | TOI

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/gray-areas/asias-highest-cross-in-pakistan-a-fitting-tribute-to-selfless-christian-community/

When Pakistani real-estate tycoon Parvez Henry Gill’s dream project would be a reality later this year, it would tower over Pakistan’s financial nerve centre — Karachi — as Asia’s highest Christian cross. Gill hopes to inaugurate the 140-feet religious symbol with large celebration in presence of Pope Francis, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Queen Elizabeth II and ex-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The inauguration would be of great symbolic value in a city with large Hindu and Christian population and a sprinkling of Parsis and Sikhs. It would importantly coincide with the implementation of the National Action Plan formulated to combat terrorism and radicalization, which led to massacre of around 150 children in Peshawar last year. The real test of the plan would be how it changes the lives of ordinary Christians and people from other minority communities, who are often at the receiving end of discriminatory laws. Pakistan’s efforts to root out terrorism and radicalisation would be inadequate as long as it does not fulfill the promise of equal citizenship the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had emphatically made to the minorities. In case of Christians in particular, it would not be a favour but recognition of their selfless services to the country.
(Getty images)
A 140-foot cross at the Gora Qabristan Cemetery (Getty images)
The Pakistani Christian contribution has not been limited to healthcare and quality education, which has given Pakistan some of its finest politicians, jurists, soldiers and sportsmen. The community has perhaps punched above it weight most in the battlefield, something that may surprise most. Christian officers have made their presence felt in upper echelons of Pakistani armed forces and have been decorated with highest gallantry awards. Air Commodore Nazir (Bill) Latif was one of the first Christian officers to make a mark in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). He has the distinction of commanding all PAF fighter wings besides its Fighter Leader’s School and the tactical wing. Bill came into his in the 1965 war when India overwhelmed Pakistan as its tanks crossed the border and had Lahore Cantonment within their range.
(Wikipedia)
Nazir (Bill) Latif (Wikipedia)
In his 2011 obituary in a Pakistan newspaper, Bill’s junior, Air Commodore (retd) Sajad Haider, echoed criticism of Pakistani version of exaggerated exploits in the 1965 war as ‘unsubstantiated rhetoric’. But he credited men like Bill with ‘halting the juggernaut of the Indian invasion’. Haider wrote Bill’s last mission during the war ‘was the deepest penetration’ in Indian territory against ‘their farthest bomber base in Agra – with Mig-21s, SAM missiles and the inferno of light and heavy anti-aircraft shells emblazing the sky over the target’. He added Pakistan’s second highest military award — Hilal-e-Jurat —was created for him, which he got for the second time for his role in the 1971 war even as Pakistan was decimated and dismembered. Bill, according to Haider, was the only commander in his air rank to fly ‘dangerous daylight and night missions against the Indian deluge in Khokhrapar sector threatening Hyderabad (Sindh)’ in 1971.
Like Bill, Wing Commander Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat is known for his rare exploits in the otherwise disastrous 1971 Pakistani campaign. He was conferred Sitara-e-Jurat for the second time posthumously when he fell into the sea after he ejected from his aircraft as a missile hit it over the Gulf of Kutch while strafing aircraft at Jamnagar air force base in 1971. Middlecoat (31) was commanding PAF’s 26 Squadron in Peshawar before the war. He had opted out of a deputation to Jordon to take part in it. Middlecoat was among six pilots chosen for bombing heavily-guarded Jamnagar base. He had earlier been awarded Sitara-e-Jurat for the first time during the 1965 war for defending Karachi when Indian jets bombed the city. The Ludhiana-born Anglo-Pakistani had brought down two jets and earned the name of the ‘Defender of Karachi’. Group Captain Faisal Chaudhry, another Christian officer, too was awarded Sitara-e-Jurrat twice for his role in 1965 and 1971 wars.
Rear-Admiral Leslie Norman Mungavin, who had opted out of his posting in London as defence attaché to fight the 1971 war, has the distinction of being the highest ranking Pakistani Christian military officer. He served as a prisoner of war following his capture in Chittagong before becoming the deputy chief of Pakistani navy and National Shipping Corporation chairman. The two-star admiral had opted for Pakistan after partition and served its navy for 33 years. He commanded various war ships and was awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan in recognition of his services. Mungavin’s body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the Arabian Sea following his military funeral as per his wishes in Pakistan following his death in UK in 1995.
In the army, Christian officers Noeel Israel and Julian Peter have achieved the third highest — Major General — rank. Many like Yubri Malven and Simon Simon Sharaf, who is now a leading member of Imran Khan’s party, have been Brigadiers. Sharaf’s brother, Captain Justin George Napoleon Sharaf, spent over a year in an Indian prisoner of war camp after he was captured following the fall of Dhaka in 1971. Allahabad-born ex-federal minister Shiv Kumar Tressler, a Christian, retired as a colonel before joining the Foreign Service, where he went on to become director general in 1994. Among the decorated Christian army officers, Major Sermecis Rauf was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for bravery. In 2009, Major Julian James, a commando, was wounded while fighting the Taliban death cult in Swat.
But no Christian officer has captured the public imagination as much as fighter pilot Cecil Chaudhry, whose contributions go beyond the battlefield. He was first conferred Pakistan’s third highest bravery award for his role in the 1965 war. But his heroics became legendary in the 1971 war even though his country was decimated and disremembered. Cecil Chaudhry is said to have continued flying his plane at the height of 3,500 feet even as it took a hit. The plane caught fire as Chaudhry landed it on a minefield with broken ribs inside the Pakistani territory. He was decorated with his second bravery award as he insisted on continuing fighting and shot down two aircraft over the area, where his own plane had been hit. Cecil Chaudhry had been cleared for promotion in 1983, but was shocked to learn that military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq had blocked it as part of his poisonous policies of exclusion. The decorated officer resigned three years later as Group Captain after 28-year-old career.
(Wikipedia)
Cecil Chaudhry (Wikipedia)
He used his stature to speak up for the victims of injustices in the Pakistani society till his death as an activist and educationalist. He fought Zia’s poisonous legacy in the form of draconian blasphemy laws. He mentored Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic federal minister who was killed in Islamabad in March 2011 for his campaign against the draconian laws often used to target poor Christians. Cecil Chaudhry vowed to continue his struggle against the draconian laws after Bhatti’s assassination even as he was battling lung cancer.
Cecil Chaudhry had his share of successes as an activist. He was instrumental in ending separate electorates system for the minorities, which was another poisonous Zia legacy of religious apartheid. Cecil Chaudhry saw this as a betrayal of Jinnah’s ideals. He had a very non-sectarian view of activism and believed powerful persecuted 90% of his countrymen. The celebrated fighter pilot passed away in June 2012. Hundreds of politicians, military officers, educationalists and activists bid him final farewell at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. They celebrated his legacy that is at par with his countrymen like Victor Turner and Alvin Robert Cornelius, who was Pakistan’s first non-Muslim chief justice. Agra-born Cornelius belonged to the Goan Christian community, which along with upper caste Hindus and Parsis buck the general trend of marginalisation of religious minorities. Hindus in Pakistan mostly belong to the lower castes, while large numbers of Christians are descendants of converts from these communities. This is among the reasons of their marginalisation.
Goan Christians are among the most prosperous minority communities in Pakistan. The community has given Pakistan some of the finest journalists, soldiers, educationists, sportspeople, businessmen, jurists etc. Goan Christians began making a mark ever since they arrived in Karachi when the British occupied Sindh under Charles Napier in 1843. They were attracted to the sleepy coastal-village-turned-megacity as it offered them new opportunities in trade and commerce. Parsis and Goans in fact managed the city as majority of the Hindus left Karachi while Indian Muslims began arriving there in 1947. They ran educational institutions, hospitals clubs, pubs and wine stores. According to a Pakistani Goan Christian website, Goans in particular ‘were in the limelight of everything, from municipality to customs, judiciary to policing, sports, music and stage plays to ballroom dancing, and of course cuisiné.
Goan Frank D’Souza, who was the first Indian to become a Railway Board member under the British, set-up Pakistan’s railway system in 1947 on Jinnah’s request. Tollentine Fonseca wrote the musical score of Pakistan’s national anthem while Manuel Misquita was one of Karachi’s first elected mayors after the formation of Pakistan.
Anthony Mascarenhas, whose famous article in 1971 turned the tide against Pakistan in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971, was a Goan Pakistani Christian. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi cited his article, saying it shocked her deeply and prompted her to campaign globally to prepare ground for India’s intervention in East Pakistan. Mascarenhas was very close to the Pakistani establishment. This was the reason why he was handpicked along with seven other Pakistani journalists for a 10-day tour to East Pakistan. The tour was organised to ‘expose Bengali rebels’ for massacring thousands of people opposed to them. Mascarenhas’s colleagues toed the establishment’s line while he had an article published in the UK’s The Sunday Times headlined ‘Genocide’, detailing the extent of Pakistani brutality in East Pakistan. Mascarenhas later became the first journalist to report Pakistan had developed nukes in 1979.
In the battlefield, Goan Brigadier Mervyn Cardoza’s exploits won him Tamgha-e-Khidmat (seventh highest award). His brother, Colonel Eric Cardoza, Lieutenant Colonel David DeSouza, Major Joseph Lobo, Major Kenneth Cardoza, Brigadier Dr Hilary Zuzarte have received Sitara-e-Basalat. Air Commodore Charles Zuzarte was decorated with the Sitara-e-Basalat. Other prominent Goans, who have served the military with distinction, include Brigadier FG Pinto (army), Commanders Stanislaus DeSouza, Arthur Cardoza, and Lieutenant Commander Phillip Menezes (navy), Flight Lieutenants Reginald Nazareth and Rudy D’Souza (air force). Among the sleuths Blasé Mascarenhas, who retired as Intelligence Bureau deputy director, was decorated Tamgha-e-Khidmat, for their services. Maurice Raymond was the first Pakistani General Manager of the Karachi Port Trust, while Joseph D’Mello went on to become Pakistan Railway Board chairman and Sydney Pereira the head of Atomic Energy Commission. Among the sportsmen, Mathais Wallis, who batted with Hanif Mohammad’s during his record 337-run innings at Port of Spain in 1958, and Antao D’Souza played test cricket for Pakistan.
Most of these men grew up in Karachi, which has suffered the most as a result of Pakistan’s obsession with strategic depth in Afghanistan and the chronic extremism it brought to the city still known for its diversity. Gill’s record-breaking cross should be an important celebration of this diversity and Christian contribution to the city and the country. Pakistan needs to compliment it with more concrete measures that go beyond tokenism and combat radicalism corroding the society with greater sense of purpose. By attending the inauguration of the cross, Prime Minister Sharif should put the money where his mouth is to end the scourge of extremism, which cannot be ended with out rooting Zia’s poisonous exclusionary policies reflected in discriminatory laws against the minorities. Karachi is Pakistan’s soul and the cross coming up there is perhaps a good omen for Islamabad’s promised curative surgery to rid the country of the cancer of extremism.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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