This presentation is a national report on migrations in the history of Pakistan since 1947 with its implication to ‘Migration and Mission’ as a mission commitment of the Church. It is a case study of a church in a minority group of about 3 percent among 97 per cent Muslim majority. Christians formally and informally at all stages of migrant groups have identified with them in the plight of their being in a disadvantaged position socially and otherwise.
The focus of the report is on ,“Migration and Mission’, and raises challenges of contemporary mission concerns for academics and practitioners . We are conscious of the fact that owing to ever growing changes in the global communities, the understanding of religious commitment to society has also gone under change, resulting in the emergence of different points of views of mission and evangelism. Therefore, it is of importance that a pragmatic discourse may be adopted while discussing themes of practical nature like the one of our assembly.
Pakistan is largely a conservative society so any innovative idea, theology or mission paradigm takes long time to germinate. But, there have been some visible changes in the perception of mission over time. Our seminaries and professors of mission are now addressing issues of holistic/integral mission paradigm inviting communities to show solidarity with the displaced people and refugees within the country. They are conscious of the difficulties like identity crisis of the Pakistani Diaspora living abroad in the Middle-Eastern and Western countries in search of green pastures, and Afghan and other refugees finding it extremely difficult to live without a proper national and ethnic identity.
The Pakistani Church came into being as a result of the Modern Missionary Movement of the 18th and 19th Centuries which had a clear focus on solidarity with the poor and marginalized communities. The success of the Modern Missionary Movement is noted in their commitment to social action. At that time the low cast schedule tribes were internally displaced. More recently the tribal people in the interior of Sindh Province appear to be a people on the move. The Catholic church and the Church of Pakistan along with smaller churches have shown practical commitment of service to these communities in the region. The Church in Pakistan has a clear commitment to the mission to the poor and displaced people who go hungry and live as destitute communities.
MIGRATION AT THE TIME OF INDEPENDENCE IN 1947
With pain, the partition of Sub-continent of India bringing one of the worst massacres of history on the scene, 1947 is remembered. Both Pakistan and India celebrate their Independence on 14th and 15th of August every year respectively. It is like remembering the birth pains of the mother while celebrating child’s birthday. Pakistani people had the first hand experience of migrations and refugees on both sides of the Eastern border at the time of the creation of their homeland.
H.V.Hodson, in his book, ‘the great divide’ says,
“it is impossible to be sure how many people were killed in communal war of August to November 1947. We better not mention how many people were killed but we can mention that it was a communal war which was because of fear, the heart break and the destitution which this spontaneous and unforeseen upheaval spelt represented more human misery than even the fearsome toll of sudden death.” (1997:Karachi, Oxford University Press p. 418).
Since 1947, Pakistan has faced influx of migrants from different sides of the borders. This has always raised the challenge for Christians and non-Christians to stand by the migrants on religious and human grounds.
PAKISTAN: PRESENT DEMOGRAPHIC REGARDING REFUGEES AND IDPs (INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLES)
The records tell us that on 31st December 2017 Pakistan had 249,000 IDPs in the country especially concentrated in the KPK Province. During that year there was an increase of 75,000 people to this group. It is noted that the reason of this situation was conflict and violence. There was army action against certain groups in the Northern areas and the local people got displaced and have been living in a situation of misery in camps for a long time. The same year 1800 people were displaced because of natural disaster.
It is also reported that 380,884 Afghan Refugees who fled to Pakistan because of Soviet War of 1980s, returned to Afghanistan in 2007. However there are still1.3 million remaining Afghan Refugees in Pakistan.
Regarding the IDPs mentioned above 1.2 million have been displaced in Pakistan, spread across the KPK Province and also moved to different parts of the country especially to Karachi for economic reasons. Since 2008 and 2009, 555,000 people have been uprooted, because of fighting in Afghanistan and the adjacent areas of Pakistan.
The displaced people have lived with friends and relatives and created a situation of dependency. Many Afghan refugees were not given a status of Pakistanis despite they were born in Pakistan after their parents moved to Pakistan. This created a condition of identity crises for them. In 2008, 300,000 people were taking a status of refugees in Pakistan, stated by UNHCR.
This is an alarming situation of migrations into Pakistan since mid 1980s. The Church stood shoulder to shoulder with the Governments and non-government organizations to help out this crisis. The Church of Pakistan, Peshawar diocese showed a visible solidarity with the IDPs by providing physical help of opening the doors of their churches and Institutions and did whatever was in their capacity. Other churches also did according to their capacities. National Council of Church in Pakistan, CWS (Church World Service) and other groups have been on the scene and showed solidarity with the marginalized and others who were affected by disasters in a pragmatic way. The traditional norm of hospitality worked out in many situations. Along with feeding those who were affected, there was the challenge of upholding their identity and integrity. We thank God for the mission and ministry consciousness and commitment of religious groups, in particular the commitment of the Church in Pakistan.
MISSION COMMITMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF MIGRATIONS
It is praiseworthy that missiologists all over the world are now writing broad based missiology involving communities for a broader participation in socio-political and religious situations of migrants. This highlights the case of deteriorating human condition at many places of the world and invites communities and governments to resolve the conflict of division among nations and groups. Mission has a potential of Solidarity with the migrants in their plight of displacement owing to natural and political disasters. The basic thing is pragmatic mission theology. We cannot just blame others for the miserable World Situation where 68 million people live away from their homes either as refugees or as Diaspora for better economic situation.
Christianity is appreciative to migrants and shows solidarity with them because the Bible is full of accounts of migrations started with the Great man of Faith, Abraham who migrated along with his clan to the land of Canaan. His migration is understood as per divine guidance. Mission Theology notes that migration has been an integral part of migration of missionaries in the modern and classical situations. Also there is a reference of the Children of Israel migrating from Egypt to the Promised- land. It is stated that ‘migration and mission’ are powerfully interlinked’. With this note, we can refer to the “Globalization” as a phenomenon of migrations because people take the world as a global village. This is an era when travelling across borders in now vast; also the demography of population is changed. Most countries are now in multi-cultural situations. They meet immigrants at every level of social encounters. A more inclusive approach to mission will help us to live our faith more concretely.
Dr. Pervaiz Sultan obtained his PhD in Missions Studies from Open University, UK through Oxford Center for Missions Studies in 1997. He is also a professor of Mission and Practical Theologies at St.Thomas’ Theological College in Karachi, Pakistan.