Pakistani Catholics seek equality through music

Video incorporates famous quotes from Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, regarding the status of minorities.


Using music and lyrics to help calm the savage beast of religious bigotry, and draw people together, has proved a hit in Pakistan.

On Aug. 14 this year, Pakistan celebrated the 70th anniversary of its independence from British rule.

As expected, there were patriotic celebrations around the country and social media was flooded with congratulatory messages from sportsmen, showbiz celebrities and political figures.

But what made the occasion more special was the release of a music video featuring renditions of iconic national songs. The video was directed and produced by Imran Akhtar, a young Catholic known by his Facebook name, Immy Gill.

Gill assembled 13 professional Christian singers from different parts of Pakistan in the capital city Islamabad to produce a six-minute "mash-up" video.

The video incorporates famous quotes from Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, regarding the status of minorities in the then newly established nation.

Jinnah stated in a 1947 address; "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state."

Jinnah pledged there would be no discriminatory distinctions between one community, caste or creed and another. And he predicted religious barriers would break down as people identified as citizens of Pakistan.

However, minorities and rights' campaigners now say that Jinnah's message was soon forgotten after his demise on Sept. 11, 1948.

Contrary to Jinnah's idea of a progressive and liberal nation, Pakistan became increasingly Islamized while Christians, Hindus and Muslim minorities were marginalized. Draconian blasphemy laws have been used to persecute Christian and other minorities.

Hard-line Sunni Muslim groups have victimized minority Ahmadi and Shia Muslims.

Gill said one of his objectives was to remind his Muslim brethren about the pledge the founder of the nation made to the nation's minorities.

"As Christians, we have contributed to the progress and prosperity of Pakistan from day one," he said.

"There were many Christian heroes who laid down their lives for Pakistan."

Another aim, he said, was to portray a positive image of Pakistan on its 70th birth anniversary by paying tribute to the nation.

The video became a hit as soon as it was uploaded on YouTube and Facebook. It has been viewed over three million times.

All leading TV channels, including Dawn News, Geo News and ARY reported on and aired the video.

"I felt proud and happy when I saw that my Muslim brothers and sisters started sharing my song on social media and, last but not the least, our Pakistan army Facebook page shared my song," he said.

Gill was of the view that music can be instrumental in bringing religious communities together.

He also called on local media to invite minority singers and artists to highlight their talent, showing the world that Pakistan treats all citizens equally.

Haris Bazmi, one of the singers, said that the song was a tribute by Christians to Pakistan on the occasion of Independence Day. "I am proud of being part of the initiative," he said.

Akash Sonu, the music director, agreed with Bazmi. "We love Pakistan as much as any Muslim does. And this video is an expression of our love for the motherland."

Salman Ahmad, ace guitarist with the Sufi rock band Junoon, said it was not easy being a member of a religious minority in any country, especially in an age of rising hate and bigotry.

"That makes this collection of songs even more special for me," he said.

"I want to congratulate the Christian singers who have sung these evergreen Pakistani national songs with such passion and a fervor for peace and harmony."

Many Pakistanis took to social media to express opinions about the video.

They variously described it as "heart touching" and a "wonderful masterpiece" that showed how members of religious minorities are "as Pakistani" as the religious majority.

Source: UCAN

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