Pakistani Christian soldiers lay down their lives to protect their homeland
By Ashfaq Fateh
Special to ASSIST News Service
TOBA TEK SINGH, PAKISTAN (ANS) – The Pakistan Army has declared that all of the 139 soldiers buried alive by an avalanche at a high-altitude camp in the Siachen sector of Pakistan, as “shuhada” (martyrs).
Search teams trying to recover bodies
A military statement declaring them dead came days after rescuers recovered three bodies from the remote glacier where a huge avalanche buried them in early hours of Saturday, April 7, 2012.
The Army pledged it would continue all out efforts to recover the bodies of those that had died after the avalanche hit the camp at Gayari.
Within days of the incident, experts and former Army officers had said it was unlikely that anyone in the camp had survived.
Now ANS-Pakistan can reveal that four of the soldiers that were protecting the Pakistan-India border were Christians.
The guns have largely been silent since late 2003, when the two countries put in place a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, and more troops have died on the glacier due to the adverse weather than combat.
Pakistan soldiers on the Siachen Glacier in northern Pakistan are tied to each other for safety in hostile weather conditions
The Defense Secretaries of India and Pakistan will hold their next round of talks on the military standoff on Siachen in Islamabad during June 11-12.
The four Christian soldiers would have celebrated Easter, with other Christians in the country, but instead they laid down their lives to protect their homeland.
According to Pakistani mainstream media, “Asif Masih and Moon Gill from Lahore Division and Naveed Masih and Adil Masih from Sargodha were Christian soldiers who were killed by the devastating avalanche.
April 7, 2012 was an Easter Vigil day and Pakistani Christians were busy making preparation to celebrate Easter 2012 and were returning to their hometowns and villages to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with their families and friends.
A vigil for the dead soldiers
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat)
However, the four Christian soldiers serving at Gayari Sector of Siachen border with India tells a different story of their commitment to their homeland.
They laid their lives while protecting their borders with India. These soldiers did not visit their families at Easter and preferred to remain with other 121 soldiers (Muslim brothers) that were serving at Gayari sector the world’s highest glaciers called Siachen.
On April 07, 2012, Media and Pak Army’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) gave a tragic news that avalanche hit Gayari sector. 125 soldiers, and 14 civilians, were hit by the heavy avalanche. The news saddens the nation including Muslims and Christians.
The Pak Army launched search operation despite the severe weather conditions to find all 139 people and appealed the nation for the safety of soldiers and people.
Christians all over Pakistan dedicated their Easter vigil and Easter prayers for the safety of avalanche hit soldiers and civilians. Doulos International a Pakistani Christian group called for a day of fasting and prayer for miracles. Some Churches like God’s Grace Church of Pakistan, Toba Tek Singh regularly dedicated their services for avalanche hit victims.
Pak army continues its search operation for 52 days but only four dead bodies of the soldiers were found. Since that time, the Pak Army remained in consultation with religious scholars. All the scholars of different sects and denominations declared “Martyrs” to the entire avalanche hit soldiers and civilians.
The burial of one of the soldiers
ANS-Pakistan decided to cover the story to highlight the sacrifices of the Christian soldiers for their country. A Brief report of a program of candle light vigil and tribute to the martyrs and interviews of the people of various sections of life is shared.
On June 2nd Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, PMLN, (a political party), its minority wing and civil society organizations and Christian groups organized a special program in PMLN district office, Toba Tek Singh to offer Fatayha (Prayer) and paid tribute to Pakistani soldiers who were hit by avalanche.
Rasheed Jalal, District President PMLN, (Minority wing) said, “The sacrifice by Christian soldiers a sign of love for Pakistan. The mothers of soldiers are saluted and the families who have lost their sons to protect the country are prayed.
Pastor Johnson Gill of World Christ Ministries of Pakistan, said, “Gayari martyrs are the real heroes of Pakistan. Their services will be remembered for generations to come. Since Siachen is covered with heavy snow and glaciers, it is the hardest battle place for both India and Pakistan. Pakistani soldiers were serving bravely.
Later a demonstration was organized with candles to pay tribute to martyrs. The rally participants raised slogans in favor of Pakistan Army.
ANS-Pakistan spoke to Rana Asif Mehmood a newly appointed Minister for Finance for Punjab province (and the second Pakistani Christian Member Punjab Assembly), who said, “The Christian soldiers have given a great sacrifice for the nation. Their martyrdom shows how sincerely Christians are serving the nation. The Christians are actively involved in every sphere of life to build strong and peaceful Pakistan.”
Rana Asif went on to say, “The Holy Bible has a very clear message to its followers, ‘Obey your rulers” and that’s what the four Christian Soldiers did on April 7, 2012, when they offered their lives for Pakistan.”
Mr. Rana Asif Mehmood urged the Federal government to recognize the role of Christian soldiers and propagate nationally and internationally to make Pakistanis know that Christians are true citizens of Pakistan.
Another vigil picture
(Photo: Ahsan Sadaqat)
Atif Jamil Pagaan a well know Christian rights activist and central leader, Pakistan Minorities Democratic Movement (PMDM) spoke to ANS-Pakistan and said, “Pakistani’s history shows during lent or after Easter, Christians sacrifice their lives for a special mission. Bishop John Joseph shot himself to death in protest against the discriminatory laws used against religious minorities in Pakistan. Pakistanis called him their martyr. It was right after Easter 1998.
“Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities affairs was also killed during Lent Season 2011. Every Pakistani calls him a martyr of vulnerable. Now, four Christian soldiers have sacrificed their lives for the cause of our nation and this is highly regarded by Pakistanis. It has given a new spirit to Pakistani Christians.”
Atif Jamil said, “The avalanche was a natural disaster that hit soldiers but since the lives have been laid for a great mission, therefore, all Pakistanis believe they are their heroes and martyrs.”
Rafia Salomi, a Christian women rights activist while talking to ANS-Pakistan, said, “The martyrdom of Christian soldiers along with their Muslim brothers have given an opportunity to opinion makers, media, educationists and legislators to highlight the services of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan to change the mindset of the general public that all citizens are respectful and share the equal rights in the constitution.”
She demanded the state and federal governments to organize special programs with focus to appreciate the role of Christians. It will promote harmony, tolerance and acceptance.”
She also urged state and federal government to ensure implementation five percent quota in jobs and services to empower the Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.”