By Junaid Shah                                                                                     

Karachi is the largest metropolitan of Pakistan with over 25 million population. The metropolitan hosts a large Hindu and Christian population, who have been cities inhabitants for centuries.

Established in 1864,the St. Paul’s church still exists in Manora Island. Manora, part of Keamari district of Karachi also hosts around eight thousand Christian population. To analyze the vaccine confidence and its access, the scribe visited the church and had a conversation with its administration.

Pic 1 Cent Paul Church

Christians in Karachi are more responsive to vaccine

Bannia Pervaiz, 26,from the church administration shared that he personally had no concerns on account of Covid-19 vaccination and he along with his family got vaccinate dearly.

“We were unaware about any consequences of the vaccination though we had fears in minds. Everybody was getting vaccinated, so did we. The government has been pushing that the vaccine is beneficial and those refusing to get vaccinated may lose their employment,”Bannia informs.

Pic 2 Reporter talking to Bannia a Christian Youngster

He further elaborates that everyone is frustrated and wants the pandemic to end, therefore people are more willing to get vaccinated. “Around 80 percent of the Christian members in Manora has been vaccinated including priests,” Bannia adds.

During an exclusive talk with the scribe, Riaz Bota, the Vice Chairman, the Church of Pakistan was of the view that Christian community supports the government’s campaign to control the virus. He told that initially everyone was reluctant because of conspiracies, including its negative impacts on the reproductive health. There were also concerns about the side effects of vaccination include fever and pain. Social media posts and some media influences were propagating that vaccine is not a medicine but a surveillance chip.  However, the church played the role to educate the community on dangers of the virus and benefits of vaccine. “Our WhatsApp groups were active in neutralizing the misconceptions being spread through the social media,” Bota explains.

“Many people acted upon viral WhatsApp messages, but also many in the community were affected by the pandemic,” he says, adding that now people ages over 50 years are also receiving booster shots.

Manish expresses worries for Hindu community

Manish Luhana, 24, is a Hindu student who actually hails from Tharparkar and is enrolled in Karachi University’s Mass Communications department. He received his vaccine in Karachi; however, talking about his community in Tharparkar, Manish tells that still many in Tharparkar disown the pandemic, rather consider it a normal cold and flu, and some of them also lost their lives.

Manish, out of fear,runs an awareness campaign on social media and tries to convince people to get vaccinated, as he finds it is important to counter disinformation as it is the biggest challenge, especially for those who have limited tools to counter it.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani,member National Assembly, also heads the Pakistan Hindu Council, says “It is not a matter of being Hindu or Christian; religions are all equal and their government is indiscriminately reaching to everyone. There shouldn’t be any compromise when comes to health.”

Sajan and Company, a janitorial business in Karachi is also playing a role in the vaccination drive. When questioned, Sajan Jaman Danwal, head of the company says that a policy decision was made that every employee will have to receive the vaccination in strict compliance to the state’s directives.

“Majority of our employees belong to Christian and Hindu minorities, and they play a vital role in our janitorial business. Most multinational companies who are our clients, during peak of the pandemic, had prohibited the entry of non-vaccinated workers.Hence, we pushed our company’s 150 employees to complete their vaccination on priority basis,” Sajan informs.

Sunil, a Sajan and Company employee, says that ‘’vaccine is a job requirement but it is also necessary against Covid-19 virus. I still have a fear but I got my vaccination. We do not know who to trust and who not to trust.’’

Sajan says that there are few areas where the vaccination yet needs to reach. He also says that some of his workers belong to Jokhi Morr, Landhi, and Quaidabad who inform him that many Christians and Hindus residing in these areas are not yet vaccinated due to hesitancy, fear, and rumors however, a significant number of Hindu families in these areas have completed their vaccine shots.