Call for Papers
Christianity and Christians in Pakistan
June 15-16, 2023
Kellogg College, University of Oxford
Abraham Akhter Murad, Oxford-Vincent Packford Geoffrey Smart Graduate Scholar, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Yaqoob Khan Bangash, Fulbright Fellow, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University
Outcome: A major outcome of this conference will be a special issue of a leading journal based on selected papers.
Process: To participate in the conference, please send a 200-word abstract with a copy of your CV to ChristiansinPakistanconf@gmail.com by midnight GMT on April 1, 2023. Replies will be sent by April 5, 2023.
It is claimed that Christianity came to the region of the Punjab (present day Pakistan) in the first century AD with the Apostle Thomas. We know little of this early community, and there is also scant information about Christian traders (mainly Armenian) in the millennium following, but the Mughal interaction with Western Christianity in the sixteenth century is well documented. However, that small community died out within a few decades, and it is only with the annexation of the Punjab by the British in 1849 that Christianity reappears, and in fact creates roots, in the region. By the time of the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Christians were about half a million strong in the Punjab, with smaller communities in other parts of what became Pakistan.
Despite a long presence and not insignificant numbers, the study of Christians in Pakistan has only received little attention. It is largely absent from the broader narrative of Pakistan, has only occasionally been the subject of academic research, and has mostly revolved around activist issues of rights, access, and often times, sheer survival. With 75 years of Pakistan completed it is therefore time to have a long view of the community and its development in the country.
This conference aims to bring together scholars to discuss the Christian community in Pakistan from various angles. Being both inter and intradisciplinary, the conference intends to achieve several goals. First is to incorporate the Christian community’s discourse within the national narrative. This entails a conversation both within and without the community, using the lens of history and politics, and placing the community in the larger framework of the country. Secondly, the conference will assess the development of a ‘Pakistani Christian’ community through the lens of identity, class, caste and other categories. Thirdly, the conference will bring developments within the community to ascertain the notion of a Pakistani Christian ‘theology.’ Long led and nurtured by foreigners, the Christian leadership in Pakistan is now almost wholly local. Thus, what kind of theological interventions have developed and are emerging in the community needs critical attention. Fourthly, the conference will assess the larger societal role of the Christian community in Pakistan especially through their educational and healthcare work. What does a ‘mission college’ mean in Pakistan now? To what purpose and end are these social endeavours in Pakistan? Finally, the conference, while remaining academic, will also host a Roundtable where academics will interact with activists, policy makers, and others, to debate the future of the Christian community in Pakistan. This Roundtable will form cross linkages, germinate newer ideas, and initiate creative synergies to lead the conversation forward.