An interview with Flora Xavier
This week I had the honor of meeting PNA-Canada’s most well known faces Flora Xavier. Flora is famous for her social work and has raised her voice for Human Rights and Minority Rights in Pakistan. She is also the spokesperson for Pakistan Nationalists-Christian Wing and is gaining recognition for her social work. She is also pursuing a career in journalism and her column in the Nationalist Weekly attracts a large number of followers.
The interview highlights the issues faced by the Christian community in Pakistan, looks at current happenings in Pakistan and talks about Pakistans policy issues including the pathetic display by the government to India’s antics. It also raises the issue of Jamaat Ud Dawas innocence and how the ban has affected 80000 individuals who JuD used to feed shelter or aid in some way. Ways to bridge the increasing gap of differences between the Muslim World and the West are also discussed.
Nice to be talking to you…
Minority Affairs And Christian Rights:
For a start how is it like to be a Pakistani Christian exactly and what message would you like to give Pakistan’s 97% Muslim Majority?
I have been asked the same so many times. We love our country very much and you can take it as my word that I can put my life on the line for Pakistan because no matter what we always have a bond to Pakistan and it has nothing to do with religion. But we also want to solve the problems that our Christian Community faces. To solve these issues is the responsibility of not only Christians but all Pakistanis and avoiding or denying them will only hurt Pakistan. Sadly some people do exactly that. The 11th August Quaid E Azam Speech is my favorite of all time. Let me quote some parts I memorized by heart.
“You are free you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed it has nothing to do with the business of the State…”
So didn’t Jinnah want a secular Pakistan where we were treated as equal? Why cant we have that Pakistan?
How tolerant towards Christians are the Pakistani Muslims and the Pakistani Government?
That’s quite blunt way to ask. The government almost ignores we are even there but the government is made up of the worst of worst, thieves, murderers people concerned about stealing the nations money, the sort so it is stupid to think anything from them at all.
The majority of Muslims respect us. But an issue is we are caught in between the West and the Terrorists just like Muslims are in the west. For example when a Danish Cartoon insulted Muslims we stood right beside our Muslim brothers and sisters and protested with them joining the long marches and protests. But we were the ones attacked by fanatics in its aftermath. Terrorists started breaking into Christian houses and attacking us. The Pakistani Christians are in a situation that they haven’t faced before. On one side is the west and some idiot individuals that add fuel to fire and on another are the fanatics. We don’t know which ones are worse. The instigators of an illiterate brainless population or the population itself that is not willing to progress and abandon barbarism.
How does it feel to be representing the Christians of Pakistan and to be more specific the Christian wing of the Pakistan Nationalists? Its must have its advantages?
Well I don’t think I represent all Pakistani Christians but a certain group of Christians. Pakistani Nationalists are very different from other Pakistanis and this disparity exists in Christians as well.
I like to represent my Christian Community but some action would be pleasing. We talk and raise the issues that exist and there is much acceptance and respect for us and our thoughts amongst the community especially in PNA with Muslims even coming to defend us when we are insulted but nothing really happens in terms of action. Our Nationalist leaders simply don’t have either the power or the will and energy to change things and do away with discriminatory laws.
As far as being a part of the Pakistan Nationalists is concerned it is an honor. Pakistani Nationalism is the only hope for Pakistan.
You raised the issue of discriminatory laws. You have been fighting against discriminatory laws for a long time without effect I might add. Do you think its really possible to erase or edit if you will the Hudood ordinance and Blasphemy laws?
It is possible if people understand their affects, the grief and problems they have caused and stop supporting them. Awareness and education is important for Pakistanis. Some Muslim Leaders think that they are laws that are protecting Islam. Both laws are not only discriminatory but are being used to commit injustices. It is not the intentions behind a law that matters but its results and the results are very sad. I take a tough stand on Blasphemy specially and think of no amendment but the only thing we should do is do away with these laws completely. Truly everyone knows that Christians don’t believe in the last Islamic Prophet so let them believe what they believe and you believe what you believe. Christians should not slander him but honestly it is quite well known that we have different beliefs. Rather just accepting them might be better.
Hudood has more or less been updated to be better as police and courts will now try and investigate cases but an issue is that simply people don’t rape women with 4 witnesses sadly. No one rapes someone in front of 4 witnesses. I think there are still things that need to be amended here and many Christian women have been gang raped only because of this “rape tool” law. Many are even converted or married by some terrorists and blasphemy comes in again. If a person is converted to Islam even at gunpoint he cant say he is a Christian because 295C does not allow.
Now in a civilized society which unfortunately Pakistan isn’t I might say it would have been a fine enough just with a little amendment to the law where it says one witnesses claim is enough for blasphemy. 295B, 295/C are both so vague that you cant even understand them. 295C doesn’t give any details. Just anyone who insults the prophet should be hanged or sent to jail. How you will judge if someone really insulted the Prophet there is nothing about that.
We have to stop living in dreams and look at the reality. Too many innocent people have been wrongly accused for either burning the Quran or for insulting the Prophet by this law. Not all of them are even Minorities. Many of them are Muslims. The thing that needs to be understood is the laws aren’t meeting their purpose and are being used to wrongly accuse people and settle personal disputes. Innocent people are being framed when they never insulted the Prophet or burned the Quran and there are thousands of cases of this. Humanitarian groups manage to secure the release of many but others just languish for a crime they did’nt even commit. Over 1200 people have been framed by such trouble makers and terrorists since 1988 and many of these 1200 have been killed. Even Muslims. A Muslim scholar was burned alive by a group of terrorists for burning the Quran though his real crime was a Fatwah against suicide bombing.
The laws would be good if the people were not using it for their own personal feuds or advantages or if the law did not become a tool for terrorists to kill innocents and then say it was because they are heretics. We need to do away with blasphemy completely and people need to understand it. If we cannot do away with it and it hurts the pride of some Mullahs then at least amend it in such a way so that terrorists cant use it to kill or frame people might be a nice beginning.
What can be done to improve the lot of not only Christians but all Minorities in Pakistan?
To improve our lot we have to do away with the senseless changes that started being brought forward in 52 and 72 and discriminatory laws during Zia Ul Haq’s time. There is so much that can be done. The best thing however would be for our muslim brothers and sisters just to become a little more tolerant and be more accepting of us in Pakistani society and remember what the Quaid E Azam wanted. Quaid E Azams speeches on minorities should be part of the constitution. Sadly they are not and if they were the laws we mentioned earlier would’nt be imposed on us. Quaid E Azams words thoughts and beliefs are what should be that leads the decisions our country makes.
Christians of Pakistan have always been involved in social work in Pakistan. Any special reason?
Well our own rights are at stake so that is definitely one of the main reasons. And another is welfare work is specially commended in the Bible and Jesus himself asked us to help those in need. It’s the same for the Quran I would guess. We just like social work that’s all.
The Mumbai Attacks
What do you think of the Mumbai Attacks and Indias war rhetoric? We Pakistanis seem to have a completely different explanation of events by the looks of it? Barely anyone in Pakistan believes the attacks were by Lashker E Toiba and there have been sporadic protests against the ban of Jamaat Ud Dawa which has over 80000 people who are dependent on it.
Yes there are several Pakistanis saying the Mumbai attacks is a problem of local Indian militants that have nothing to do with Pakistan and I think the points that have been made make sense and should be investigated. The Samjhauta Express attacks were proved false. I think we should be careful here and most important explain the issue to the other countries here because India has launched a heavy Diplomatic drive with their media involved in extensive propaganda campaign. I doubt Jamaat Ud Dawa is a front for Lashkar E Toiba at all and has anything to do with them. If we don’t present our side it will be a failure to Pakistans diplomacy.
India and Pakistan are suffering the same terror. Our enemies are the same terrorists. The Indians should stop raising war frenzy and should concentrate on defeating terrorism. They cause more problems for Pakistan than for India. We have had more losses in terrorism. Indians need to grow up and stop with the blame. They have been proven wrong in the past and I would assume they are being proven false again because we Pakistanis think something is definitely wrong and don’t think the terrorists were Pakistani but home grown Indian terrorists. It is Indian policy to blame Pakistan.
I remember a Hindu leader we knew was misled by their stupid comments of how Krishna temple in Lahore was being razed and went to the courts to stop it. It turned out it was hearsay and Krishna Mandir was intact and the Indians received a lashing from him. He sent a quite strong message.
The Ban on Jamaat Ud Dawa Under Foreign Pressure
Flora you have done social work for the Peshawar diocese and worked to aid the victims of the terrible Kashmir earthquake that killed over 73000 people. Jamaat Ud Dawa was present there right?
That’s correct. They were the first to react and come to aid of the Kashmiri people. The people there had only words of praise for them. If you say anything against them they get angry. Same would be for Ziarat as well I guess.
Did you notice or feel threatened by the Jamaat Ud Dawa workers or did you feel that they were involved in any terrorist activities?
I don’t think Jamaat Ud Dawa is a terrorist organization. I went to Kashmir in 2005 for the Earthquake relief efforts. The workers of JuD left us largely alone. There was a large group of Christians doing relief work for Peshawar Diocese and bringing relief to the victims. JuD hurt no one including the other foreign workers who were Americans and Turks. We coordinated our activities in fact and sort of ordered the Jamaat Ud Dawa workers about all the time. They did most of the hard work. I sort of acted as a sort of supervisor to the JuD guys and I looked after the injured women and children and gave them blankets and kept them warm and took classes as well in a little camp.
If they are not a terrorist organization then why the ban? Was it a very sensible thing to do this just under pressure from our “Well-wishing” Indian friends?
I think the issue is that the American team and other foreign workers perhaps did feel threatened by them. They were just put off with the big beards and the fiery sermons and enhanced basis of Islam they had in their schools which they had never seen before. An American aid worker did ask me what I thought of the JUD Mosques Imam who was exceedingly suspicious about the Americans and was making flamatory sermons and telling everyone how he disliked their presence. I replied we think the same of all Imams if they just keep to themselves. We’re more or less used to Imams and Mullahs making these kinds of sermons because we live in Pakistan and have heard enough of it and know we will hear it all our lives until we are in Pakistan. Usually from the sermons we hear the Imams always have something to say about American and Israeli policy which I think most Muslims agree on that and its their independent view which in no way means they want to bomb either of the two nations. Right?
But thing is for the Americans it was a new experience so they thought what the hell is going on. They got a translator and began a documentary when they heard the Imam mention Israel and America a few times. However the Imam never expressed his desire to kill anyone or supported suicide bombing. It doesn’t mean they mean harm or are terrorists right? I watched the documentary and it looked exaggerated because I had worked there and the documentary did not prove them terrorists at all. Just pious Muslims I guess. But the documentary tried to focus on how they could be terrorists or were training children to be terrorist in their schools which was vague.
They have been banned by the UNSC and this time we did not even approach China to Veto the decision. It is almost famous in all Pakistani circles that they were only a charity organization. Do you think this is true? And 80000 people have been hurt by this ban and the work in Ziarat will leave over 600 houses for earthquake victims uncompleted.
80000 did you say?
By stealing the bread of 80000 people US will only raise Anti-Americanism that will in turn hurt the Pakistani Christians because the illiterate and lower income groups seem to have no concept of the fact that we are not Americans and see us as exactly that.
The ban will only hurt innocent people and it is unlikely Jamaat Ud Dawa would be hurt at all. They had several schools and hospitals and were giving a heavy amount of aid to the people. If they were innocent the government had to protect them but again they failed to protect their citizens. We should have presented our case to China and asked them to Veto the decision because they understand the facts rather than America that acts without thinking. It’s a diplomatic failure on our side because we had to tell the world they are innocent and not terrorists. These diplomatic failures and failures to represent ourselves I would say are the worst for Pakistan and its Christian community. The gap between Muslims and the west is increasing and the Christian community of Pakistan is hurt most by it.
The Pakistani Christian Perspective: The Gap Between Muslims and the West
You mentioned a gap between Muslims and West. Do you think the Pakistani Christians could bridge this gap and bring our people closer?
Given the opportunity we can definitely try. We can certainly help improve the image of Pakistan.
Do you think Pakistani Christians are going to be more likely to succeed in bridging it rather than Muslims?
I think so. We are in a better position to present both sides because we see how Muslims react to certain issues and problems and then we are Christians so we think we know what the Americans are thinking and therefore find common ground and start from there.
But there is a dangerous level of difference in opinion between the West and Muslims.
What do you mean dangerous?
Well lets look at Palestine. Most Muslims if not all see Hamas and Hezbollah as defenders of Palestinians and organizations that are just responding to land that belongs to Muslims being taken over. EU and USA has it banned for terrorism for raining rockets down on Israeli areas what Muslims see as fighting back.
Now if there is such a vast difference where for one side Hamas are heroes and for the other they are terrorists then obviously it reveals a dangerous conflict of opinion.
And what do you think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? You described the situation beautifully but where are you in all this?
Oh me. Well I am not very impressed with the idea of Hamas throwing rockets on my roof just because lets say I am an Israeli who happens to be born there but I am not very happy with Israel bombing civilians women and children either and responding to a rocket that kills a single Israeli civilian with a bomb that kills 40 civilians. Palestine is an occupied territory where the Palestinians are not happy with Israeli rule like Kashmir. This should also be understood but Hamas should not attack innocent civilians either and accept that it has a right to exist. Hamas I would say is a much lesser evil than what Israel is doing.
So you claim to be somewhere in the middle. So can’t the Pakistani Christians find an equal footing in all this and as a result seal the damn gap and make the two sides more understanding I guess?
If you say so. The Mullahs in Pakistan will not be impressed if we try to bridge the gap. They will simply see us as siding with the Americans and Israelis.
But we can make things better. Muslims Jews and Christians are actually much closer than what many of those so called crusaders and warmongers really think.
Our views don’t coincide with any group so we are again in the same position locked in the middle where both sides think we are their enemies. Some of our views coincide with the west which wont be admired by certain Islamic sectors of our society.
We may be able to find a common ground to work on though and that may change things.
Pakistans International Image and the Plight of Christians in Pakistan
How do foreigners or since we’re in Canada how do Canadians see Christians in Pakistan?
Most of the time no one cares. Still there have been some forgettable occasions. Some of my Canadian friends had a bit of a drink and started telling me what a hell hole for Christianity Pakistan is. An Indian even had been bold enough to insult Pakistan in front of me thinking I would be very pleased. I gave a verbal thrashing nice enough but this is how people see us sadly. Media plays a major role in it too. That is why Pakistani media should counter propaganda. Things are bad I admit but not so bad and frankly we will improve our lot.
Do you think they see things in the right way? Is it really as bad for the Christians as they think?
I don’t think it is exactly right. I know we have problems but the way they talk it is as if Pakistan is uninhabitable for any Non Muslim and aren’t there 15 Million Minorities living in Pakistan? I think the media has played a major role in creating this situation. If Pakistan was so uninhabitable no Christian would think of still living there. Even here in Canada I have been appalled by the media. Their purpose seems to be more of an Anti Pakistani Campaign than showing the reality. I go every 6 months back and forth and will stay there when I am done with school here in Canada. If it was all civil war like the media says why would that be?
It’s not only their perception of Christians in Pakistan that’s a little overboard but real issue is it’s actually the entire image of Pakistan itself that’s in danger because of biased reporting and propaganda units set up by our neighbors.
The Rise Of Pakistani Nationalism
Well before I let you loose as you know this is going to be one of the first interviews that will be made public. Could you tell our viewers and readers about the concept of Pakistani Nationalism and introduce it in terms of how exactly you see it?
I see Pakistani Nationalism as the only hope for Pakistan and all its people. You do not have to be associated with our underground groupings that once seemed impossible to join to be a Pakistani Nationalist.
To the World I will say if you are patriotic and put Pakistan before it you are automatically a Nationalist. If you believe and understand your responsibility to serve Pakistan and its people and make it the most prosperous and united nation in the world where all are treated equally and are not just opening your mouth to say it but are working to prove it then you are in every way a Pakistani Nationalist. If you reject corruption crime and terrorism and pledge to do nothing that will harm Pakistan and check every action to see how it benefits Pakistan then you are a Pakistani Nationalist. You do not need a license and be associated with PFF PNA PRS RSQ or PP. If your heart believes in these ideals then you are a Nationalist and one day Nationalists will rule Pakistan.
I have come to learn that there is much more than our lives that is to value. Without Pakistan and its people who gave us this identity it is as if our lives are automatically destroyed. Pakistan hai to hum hai. Remember that. We might seem like a bunch of rambling fanatics but inside we are just like you. We just want to see change and to see our Pakistan develop. Our loyalty is to the people of Pakistan
Join us and make Pakistan the greatest Nation!
Let this be a message to the World that we Pakistanis are ready to make our mark on history. Thank you Flora and I must tell you that you are a brilliant speaker. This interview will inspire many. Sorry for taking so much time. Wish you the best and I hope the lot of Pakistan’s Minorities improves and our efforts prove successful.
The patriotic speeches and articles must be rubbing off on me too then. Thank you.
Let Floras words be proof that every Christian in Pakistan is as Patriotic if not more Patriotic than Muslims. Pakistan Zindabad first second and last! Everything is for Pakistan. All that matters is the future of Pakistan and its people. Every drop of blood in our veins is to develop Pakistan into the Greatest Nation the World has ever seen.
Wake Up Pakistan. We all have a responsibility to our motherland! Stop screwing around and understand your responsibility. Just raising a god damn flag over our roofs is not patriotism but doing something that affects Pakistan in a positive manner is patriotism. Wake Up Pakistani People and start working. Every action we take we must think of Pakistan. This land and its people are your responsibility! You have inherited a beautiful land. We can make it into the best if we work together for once. Pakistan Always Paindabad!