Guest Post by Kaleem Dean
After Lahore instituted a new bus service, the “Orange Metro Train” was also carved out to facilitate millions of laborers. The utility of the project is convincing, but at what cost?
It looks as if all efforts were made to save national heritage sites and cultural buildings along the vast 27-mile route of the train. Still, some historical buildings have been threatened, including the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection in Lahore, which dates back to sixteenth century.
A special pink sandstone was used for the gothic-style building. The present structure of the church was built in 1887. In 1898, two towers with tall steeples were built which added much to the grandeur and sanctity of the church, but after the 1911 earthquake, the steeples were taken down. A weather cock, known as kukar girja, is been mounted on the top of the structure.
The church is the seat of the Diocese of Lahore of the Church of Pakistan, which represents millions of Protestant Christians of India and Pakistan.
Recently, Lahore Development Authority, responsible for building the train, has put pressure on the Church’s management to relinquish a sizeable piece of land from the premises of the church for the construction of a sewage pumping station.
However, this is not acceptable to the Christian community of Pakistan. The Church premises are already insufficient for annual gatherings like Christmas dinner or Easter festivities. From time to time, the premises are also used for other activities, including sports and games. In addition, the grounds surrounding the huge structure of the church are necessary to maintain its natural beauty.
The unnecessary occupying the piece of land by the government will constitute a repetition of history, when the original church building was demolished by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan.
To the thousands of Christians living in Pakistan, the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection is not just a building but a symbol of faith, integrity, unity and solidarity among Christians. Since its inception, the Church has remained the seat of the lord bishop of Lahore. The diocese has a large canvas ranging from Delhi to Afghanistan.
This church is as important to Christians as the Badshahi mosque is to Muslims. The Punjab Province administration must realize the religious feelings of Christians. This is not just the matter of a piece of land, but this is the heart of Christian community. The Punjab government is not only re-shaping history but injuring the feelings of the entire Pakistani Christian community.
A recent and historical decision by the Lahore High Court in connection with national heritage sites of Lahore said, “The (train) project has put Lahore’s architectural heritage at risk.”
The Lahore Development Authority should find another way out to sort out this issue. The Christian community in Pakistan has suffered tremendously during the last seven decades, and adding more to their wounds would not be a good message.
The Cathedral Church gives religious impetus to thousands of peace loving Christians. Along with this, the Church has international fame and identity; it has a sacred sanctity in a region fertile with religious emotions.
If this unpopular decision of the government against Christian minorities is allowed, the pain will not only be felt among Pakistani Christians, but its tremors will be felt throughout the international community as well.