01/18/2021, 13.45
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Covid-19 and discrimination have wiped out Christians' small businesses

by Shafique Khokhar

Among many cases, that of a woman who was the victim of a campaign against her beauty salon and a man who was told that his shop had been emptied by thieves, but then his Muslim partner reopened in the same location.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - 2020 began with the COVID 19 pandemic which cast its shadows on the whole world. The lockdown hit the country's economy hard. This situation has affected the daily wage community and in particular religious minorities. Thousands of people faced unemployment due to the closure of numerous industries.

Discrimination against religious minorities predominant in social life has also been observed during the pandemic, in various forms in the activities of providing food to the poor. Incidents were reported in which members of religious minorities were deprived of rations or other aid distributed to the poor.

Many Christians who ran small businesses have lost their livelihoods.

Ms. Iffat Mall (photo 1) had opened a beauty salon with the help of International Christian Concerns (ICC) in December 2018 in S Block, Model Town Lahore. Speaking with AsiaNews, Malvin Mall (husband of Iffat Mall) said: “In the beginning it went very well. However, after a few months, when it became clear that the owner of the salon was a Christian, we saw hatred against us. At night people threw their trash on the door of the living room. I cleaned every morning. Later someone started throwing cow dung and the leftovers of slaughtered animals. I kept cleaning while our work was going well. "

“A campaign against our salon began in the middle of the year, after another salon was opened in the street. Customers were told to go to a Muslim owner's salon. Our income was severely affected by this campaign. Meanwhile, the COVID 19 pandemic has begun. Our salon was closed for 7 months. We had to pay the bills which were around Rs: 100,000 (around 515 euros). We had no choice but to close our small shop ”.

Nadeem Maqbool (photo 2) had a small auto parts shop. Speaking with AsiaNews, he said: “The ICC helped me to start a small bicycle spare parts shop in December 2018. I started it with a Muslim partner. When the store started making good money, I felt it wanted to get rid of me, however in 2019 we continued. In 2020, our shop was closed due to the lockdown. In June, my partner informed me that someone had walked into our store and taken everything away. I ran to the shop and found that everything had been taken away. I don't know if it was a fictional story or a real one, as everyone was confirming what happened. I had to pay half the rent and other store bills. Now my partner has started his business in the same place. I have nothing left to start over ”.

Ms. Iffat worked as a staff nurse for Pakistan International Airlines. In 2014, a retired Muslim official wanted to force her to convert to Islam and marry him. The woman quit her job and entered a private hospital. She chased her and tried to kidnap her. She fell down the stairs and suffered a severe head injury. She has lost her sight and voice. Her sight was recovered, but her voice did not fully recover.

Mr. Nadeem left the city of Khanewal when he found out that some Muslims claimed his daughters were no longer Christian while they were acting at the school assembly. Nadeem moved to Lahore.

Both families were helped by the ICC. They were facing religious hatred and discrimination with dignity and were working well to make a living. Now COVID 19 has exacerbated the situation they were struggling with. Both families have returned to their initial poverty level. Both are optimistic and still hope for the best, because they believe in Christ and in his grace.

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