Christmas peace train inaugurated in Pakistan

PakistanUpdated: Dec 22, 2016, 01:14 PM IST

Minister of Railways hailed the role of minority groups, especially Christians, in the development and prosperity of Pakistan. (Representative image) Photograph:(Others)

Pakistan Minister for Railways Khuwaja Saad Rafique inaugurated the Christmas peace train on Thursday in a move to showcase minority outreach.

The train started its journey from Rawalpindi on Thursday and is scheduled to reach Karachi on December 31, 2016, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

Christians in Pakistan make up for one of the two largest (non-Muslim) religious minorities along with Hindus.

The total number of Christians in Pakistan was estimated to be 1.6% of the population in 2005.

The minister, while addressing the inauguration ceremony, said Christians played a key role in the development and prosperity of Pakistan.

"The white colour of our national flag denotes minority groups, and it is incomplete without them," he said, adding that this train would serve as a symbol of unity, tranquility and harmony wherever it would go.

Speaking of the shared religious principles and affinity that Muslims and Christians share, he said, "We [Muslims] can never think of committing blasphemy against any of the Messengers sent by God."

He further added that the Constitution of Pakistan provides equal opportunities to everyone, and gives legal cover to each community living in this country.

Christians in Pakistan generally face discrimination from both the populace and the government.

Pakistan's Christian community developed a "growing sense of concern", particularly over the strict blasphemy laws – which restricts any insults against the Islamic prophet Muhammad and makes the crime punishable by death.

Several hundred Christians, along with Muslims themselves, have been persecuted under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, and death sentences have been handed out to at least a dozen.

Minister for Human Rights, Kamran Michael, also shed light on the role and struggle of the Christian community as an equal partner in the development and solidarity of the country.

He even urged the people and Christian community, in particular to continue their commitment to strengthen the country.