CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 May 2017

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Put downs in Pakistan census

LAHORE (AsiaNews): Christians and Sikh religious leaders have issued an appeal to the Pakistani government to ensure that the first census in 19 years is accurate and complete.

Some prominent minority group leaders point to errors in the census’ religious and demographic categories.

There is no separate entry for Sikhs, Baha’is and Parsees, and Sikh leaders are organising demonstrations and protests in several districts.

Although recognised, Christians are referred to under a derogatory term dating back to British rule.

Pakistan began the first phase of the census on March 15 with the second phase set for April and May. The results should be made public in late July.

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, mostly Muslim, with a population that is expected to exceed 200 million people.

Estimates put the number of Christians at around four million, whilst Sikhs are thought to be just over 20,000.

Christian leaders recently urged people to take part in the census process, but also pointed out deficiencies in the model used.

The Sikhs are complaining that in column six, which refers to religion, a person can only choose between Muslim, Isaai (a despised Urdu term from colonial times used for Christians), Hindu, Qadiani/Ahmadis and scheduled castes.

“This is a very important issue. The Sikh nation has been offended by the exclusion of a separate entry in the 2017 census,” Guru Nanak Ji said. “The same error was made in the 1998 census.”

The Sikh leader went on to claim the right to protest peacefully, like all other citizens of Pakistan. “Our complaints are against the state. We call on all groups and intellectuals to put pressure. Knowing our exact number and our distribution might help get quotas in the federal budget,” he said.

Anjum James Paul, a Catholic member of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association, wrote to the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, saying, “Religious minorities in Pakistan have reservations on the violation of their right to equal citizenship and religious identity.”

 

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