Megachurch Rises In Pakistani City of Karachi

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's tiny and downtrodden Christian community is demonstrating its resilience with the establishment of a megachurch in Karachi.

The domed, three-story building towers over the sprawling slum it serves and is the largest yet in the violent, Muslim country.

St. Peter's of Karachi opened its doors this month and can fit around 5,000 people. It thrives despite state discrimination against Christians and attacks by extremists allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. The church took 11 months to build and cost $3.8 million. The donations came from locals and Roman Catholics around the world.

Pakistani towns and cities are dotted with striking churches dating back to the 19th century, when the subcontinent was ruled by Britain. Newer churches do get built, especially by Protestant and evangelical groups, but are smaller, single-room affairs.

Pakistani Christians tend to live in extreme poverty. Most are the descendants of low-caste, "untouchable" Hindus, who converted to Christianity when the region was under British colonial rule. Today, many still do the same work as their ancestors: street sweeping, domestic service or other menial jobs.

The head of the church, Father Saleh Diego, says the persecution Pakistani Christians face is accepted as part of their faith walk.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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