Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan.
Islamabad: A Christmas-themed train on Thursday set out on a journey to criss-cross Pakistan in an effort to promote tolerance in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. Adorned with Christmas lights and mock snowmen, and with carriages that have portraits and tributes to notable Christian Pakistanis, the government says it hopes to change mindsets in Pakistan, where attacks and persecution of religious minorities have become routine.
Christians make up an estimated 1.6 per cent of Pakistan’s 200 million people and have long faced discrimination - sidelined into lowly paid jobs and often the target of trumped-up blasphemy charges. “This is a sign of tolerance, everybody will celebrate Christmas together,” human rights minister Kamran Michael said, adding the public would be welcomed to visit the train and see its exhibits along its many stops.
It set off Thursday afternoon from Islamabad to Peshawar, capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and will travel to Lahore on Christmas day before leaving for Karachi on January 1.
Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan, where Muslims account for more than 90 per cent of the population.