The leadership of the Church of Pakistan (CoP) on Tuesday launched a series of consultations to formulate a strategy for ensuring accurate data of Christians in the upcoming seventh national population census as well as carrying out the first nationwide self-enumeration campaign of the community.
Addressing the participants of the inaugural session, CoP Moderator and Bishop of Raiwind Diocese, Dr Azad Marshall said the entire community was concerned about the results of the 6th census conducted in 2017, which showed a steep decline in Christian population in the last two decades.
“The census data shows that Christians have grown by 25.71 percent while Hindus grew by 70.62 percent since 1998. We believe our numbers have been hugely underreported in the 2017 census,” he said.
Bishop Marshall said that decline in official numbers can result in a range of negative impacts for the community, including decreased political representation, reduced access to services, and increased discrimination and marginalisation.
“It is important to ensure that official data accurately reflects the experiences and needs of all communities, including religious minorities, in order to promote equality and justice for all,” the church leader said.
Marshall said that churches can play a crucial role in ensuring proper representation of Christians in the national census as well as conducting a self-enumeration campaign of the community.
“All churches, regardless of their denominations, must create awareness among their congregations about the importance of enumeration and encourage them to participate in the process.
“By creating awareness, mobilising communities, collecting data, advocating, and networking, churches can help ensure that the experiences and needs of Christians in Pakistan are recognised and addressed by the government,” he said.
He added that the CoP will reach out to all mainline denominations and other stakeholders to give their inputs on how to make the census exercise effective.
Other speakers, including Bishop of Sialkot Alvin Samuel, representatives of various denominations, clergy of Raiwind Diocese, and Christian journalists, lauded the CoP for initiating consultations on the important issue. They also gave suggestions on raising awareness in the community as well as collection of data at the grassroots levels.