10/29/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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The Catholic Church in Pakistan (An overview)

Catholics are less than 1% of a total of over 160 million inhabitants. There are two archdiocese in the country, four dioceses and an apostolic prefecture. A small minority but active and appreciated for efforts in education, helping the poor, health care and emergency interventions.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistan has just over 160 million inhabitants and is the second largest Muslim country in the world, after Indonesia. About 95% of the population professes Islam, with 75% Sunni, and 20% Shiite, Christians are approximately 2% of the total (less than 1% Catholic), 1.8% are Hindus, the remaining 1.2% profess other religions, including Sikhs, Parsis, Ahmadis, Buddhists, Jews, bah'ai and animists.

The largest Catholic presence is in the diocese of Lahore, in Punjab, with 390 thousand faithful out of a total of 26 million people; 26 parishes. Following this, the diocese of Faisalabad, with 189 thousand faithful out of about 33 million people, distributed in 28 parishes. Third in the diocese of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, with 174 thousand faithful out of 32 million inhabitants for a total of 19 parishes. Then Karachi, with 145 thousand faithful and 15 parishes out of a total population of  15 million people. Pakistan has two archdiocese, four dioceses and one apostolic prefecture, all of the Latin rite.

In this country there are many Christian schools, institutes and hospitals, that are considered prestigious and are appreciated by local authorities for the quality of the work they carry out in favour of the local populations, regardless of their faith. However, religious freedom, as in other Muslim-majority nations, is not guaranteed and cases of harassment, death threats and assassinations are a constant companion.

The activities of the Church of Pakistan cover various sectors including: education and formation, aid to the poor (one third of the population is at risk from hunger), projects to support agriculture, health care and interventions in cases of emergency or natural disaster. Among the numerous works carried out by Caritas Pakistan, along with Christian-based NGOs of mention is their assistance to victims of the earthquake that struck the country in 2005, killing 75 thousand people and making at least 3.5 million homeless. The organization relies on the collaboration of 500 people and voluntary work of about a thousand volunteers, to assist approximately 500 thousand people across the nation.

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