Christians face Easter vulnerable and jobless
PESHAWAR: Days after the coronavirus crisis took hold in Pakistan, Aamir Gill, a cleaner and member of the country's Christian underclass, was fired with no warning or severance by the wealthy family he had helped look after.
Many other Christians – who live a hand-to-mouth existence in the country – have also been laid off and, with little access to government help, are wondering how they will survive.
"We were already untouchables and now due to corona, rich people think the poor might bring it into their homes," Gill told AFP ahead of an uncertain Easter.
Along with two other servants, he worked at a large house in the capital – mostly to clean up after parties.
"I have no idea how many bedrooms it had but it was big," explained Gill, who lives in Islamabad's Christian slums in a cramped one-room home with his family of four.
"My kids asked me for new Easter dresses and shoes but I have told them we are not going to have Easter this year."
Christians — who comprise roughly two per cent of the country's population — occupy one of the lowest rungs in class-obsessed Pakistan.
Most work menial jobs without contracts as street sweepers, cleaners and cooks and live in crowded, multi-generational households where social distancing is all but impossible.
Their worsening plight means the Easter will be filled with "depression and despair", said Haroon Ashraf.
"The coronavirus has snatched away the bit of bread we had," said the 25-year-old, who lost his restaurant job when the virus hit.
Along with his brother, who is also now jobless, he is supporting a family of seven that is squeezed into a two-room flat.
He was hoping to apply for financial relief from the state, but was hindered by being unable to read. - AFP