Pakistani Christian Builds 14-Story Cross

Stone crossA Pakistani businessman is in the process of building a 14-story cross in the heart of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, after getting the idea from a dream in which God told him: “I want you to do something different.”

The Washington Post is reporting on the story of Parvez Henry Gill who is part of the tiny Christian minority in predominantly Muslim Pakistan who believes his 140-foot-tall cross will bring comfort and inspiration to followers of Christ who are facing persecution and violence in his country.

“I am going to build a big cross, higher than any in the world, in a Muslim country,’” Gill told the Post. “It will be a symbol of God, and everybody who sees this will be worry-free.”

The cross is being erected at the entrance to the Gora Qabristan Cemetery, the largest in Karachi, and is made out of steel and concrete. Once completed, the enormous 42-foot wide crosspiece will make it the largest in Asia.

As the Post reports, the graveyard where it is being built has already been desecrated. Statues have been broken and headstones knocked over. A settlement has also been encroaching on the sacred grounds, covering dozens of graves, and its residents routinely toss garbage into the graveyard.

But Gill insists that the building go on.

“I want Christian people to see it and decide to stay here,” he said.

It’s a risky proposition in a country of 180 million of which 90 percent are Muslim and only about five percent are Christian. This is the same country whose blasphemy laws have seen Christians executed on trumped up charges of offending Mohammed. Not long ago, a Christian teen was doused in gasoline and burned alive simply for being a Christian. Only two months ago, 15 people were killed by suicide bombers in two separate Christian church services. Last November, a Christian couple was buried alive in a brick oven after being erroneously accused of destroying a Koran.

Have these sentiments had any effect on the building of the cross? Of course.

Gill admits that when construction started last year, he didn’t tell the workers what was being built. Only when the outline of the cross became apparent did about 20 workers quit in protest. The rest stayed, with Muslims and Christians working together to complete the project.

One man, a Muslim named Mohammad Ali, works on the cross 14 hours a day, seven days a week because he believes it’s a “work of God” and because he wants to remain loyal to the Gill family.

“Henry has supported me well over the years, helping with the birth of my [seven] children, with medicine, their education, so I don’t need a daily wage,” said Ali, 40, to the Post.

Even the local Christian authorities recognize the risks involved in the project.

“Security threats are everywhere and anything could happen any time and there is nothing we can do about it,” said Anwar Sardar, general secretary of Karachi Christian Cemeteries Board (KCCB), which granted permission for the project.

Gill insists that the project will go on to completion and hopes it will encourage Christians to remain in Pakistan as well as send a message to the world “that there are good people in Pakistan, too.”

When it’s all done, he plans to install a lighting system and will host an inauguration of the cross. He plans to invite Pope Francis, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Queen Elizabeth II of England and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

They might not show up, but the country’s many beleaguered Christians certainly will.

“Upon seeing it, they are going to appreciate this job,” he said.

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