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Lahore’s Christian localities await ‘change’

Stretching over two kilometres along Ferozepur Road with a population of about 200,000, Youhanabad forms the largest Christian locality in Lahore.

It was founded in 1965 by Father Ferdencial, a Catholic missionary. Most of the plots there measure five marlas and in 1970, the place was home to only a few Christian families as the rest of the land was used for agriculture.

Later, a number of Christians, looking for freedom of religion and communal living, began inhabiting the place. The Catholic church offered them plots on easy installments, and also provided materials for building homes.

With the rise in population, the local church acquired more land and when there was no more left to cater to the growing number of people seeking shelter, the church purchased land near Buler village and named it Youhanabad Phase II — which was termed a ‘modern village’ by then president General Pervez Musharraf. However, today, the Muslim community owns more land and shops in the locality.

Today, Youhanabad’s residents comprise government servants, sanitary workers and labourers and domestic workers.

Unfortunately, while politicians seeking elections have often used this community for the sake of their own benefits, they have not kept their promises of development.

“There is hardly any facility for the Christian residents of Youhanabad,” lamented Saddique John of Minority Rights Watch.

The community severely lacks any kind of government school, dispensary, health facility, water filtration plant and a graveyard, as the present one is full to capacity.

“We need to draw the attention of the government to provide more space for a Christian graveyard,” asserted Reverend Faraz Malik, In-charge of the Abraham Presbyterians Church Youhanabad.

The provincial capital’s second largest Christian community in Kot Lakhpat Bahar Colony also faces similar problems with regards to their graveyard, which they say has been encroached upon by neighbouring communities.

Residents of Youhanabad have heard promises of change from successive governments time and again but still hope that this time those in power can deliver on their word.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has allocated Rs300 million for the locality’s development, which includes various uplift projects related to sewerage, roads and streetlights.

“The government will try its best to provide a place for a graveyard as well, along with other facilities,” vowed Punjab’s Minister Human Rights and Minority Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine.

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