Pakistan's Christian leaders have created a heightened awareness about an upcoming census that could affect how many minority parliamentary seats are available to Christians in the Muslim-majority republic.
At a Karachi conference held Feb. 13, Catholic and Protestant bishops urged their pastoral workers to promote awareness among Christians about the countrywide census scheduled for March.
Catholic Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi and Bishop Sadiq Daniel of the Church of Pakistan jointly presided over the conference to raise awareness on the issue among clergy, pastoral workers, Christian social and political workers.
"Let's step forward to unite the entire Christian nation without any distinction between creed; let's involve every single pastoral worker, including bishops, pastors, catechists and lay people, in order to get the correct numbers," Archbishop Coutts said.
Bishop Daniel said that the census is very important for the Christian community. "It is not only vital for our development but also for our rights in the country," said the Anglican bishop.
Both churches agreed to run awareness campaigns after Sunday prayer meetings, in Bible classes and other church programs.
"The national assembly used to have 145 seats which included 10 seats for minority members, but now the seats of the national assembly number 342 but there are still only 10 seats for minorities," said Zahid Farooq, a social worker who attended the event.
"We must team up to get our basic rights in the country we belong to. This census will not only decide our future but will also benefit minorities in Pakistan," he added.
Anthony Naveed, special assistant for Inter-Faith Harmony, conducted sessions on how to best participate in the census.
"It will be a time for us to be recognized as per our numbers in order to demand our rights. I encourage every single family to prepare their documents including their identity cards to get things done correctly," Naveed said.
Pakistan's last census was held in 1998. The approaching poll was originally scheduled for 2008 but was delayed.
As per the national population census in 1998, minorities made up 2.8 percent of the Pakistani population. They included Hindus, Christians, Sikh, Parsi, Qadiyani and Jews. Christians numbered 2,600,000 — the second largest minority in the country.