Thousands of young Muslim students pledge not to call Christians “Isai”
Pakistani Christians have been facing discriminatory attitude especially when it comes to their association with menial jobs like sweepers. Christians in Pakistan are called “Isai” which is Urdu word derived from “Isa” – an Arabic name used for Jesus in the Quran.
However, since colonial rules until now, word Isai carries strong implication of someone involved in grimy, degraded occupation often times performed by low caste people in the society. This system was basically derived from the Hindu system predating Pakistan. However, usage of such words make Pakistani Christians humiliated or even second-class citizens of Pakistan. There is often a social stigma associated with being called “Isai”
For this purpose a local NGO namely Bargad, organised a campaign called “Green for White.” It is worth noting, that Green in the Pakistani flag symbolises the Muslim citizens while the White signifies the non-Muslim citizens including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Brahvis etc.
This campaign is intended to induce the Muslim Pakistanis to bear with and support the non-Muslim Pakistanis who have been fallen victims to religious persecution in the country and are left feeling highly insecure within their own motherland. Taking part in this campaign, more than 500 Muslim students hailing from various parts of Pakistan took an oath not to call Christians “Isai” but instead use the word “Masihi” for them. They also pledged to carry this message to others as well.
In recent times, Pakistani Christian leaders and various church leaders have embarked upon the task of explaining that the word “Isa” used in Quran does not describes “Jesus” of the Bible. In addition to this, they assert that according to the Scriptures in Acts 11:26- the early disciples of Lord Jesus Christ were called “Christians.” On this basis they have claimed that they should be called “Christians” which is derived from “Christ” or “Masihi” in Urdu which is derived from “Masih.”
In this regard, Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Senator Kamran Michael who is a Christian himself said, “It is important to work on changing social behaviours towards minorities, so that they are duly respected and protected.”
Moreover, the Executive Director of Bargad, Ms Sabiha Shaheen said, “Why can’t we Muslims just call the Christians by the word they think is more respectable for them? Today we are sowing a seed for social harmony and change in which all students have taken an oath to share this message with 100 other people. Though there is a law in place to outlaw name-calling, as responsible citizens we need to take a step towards this change.”