St. Peter’s of Karachi, a 5,000-seat megachurch, opened its doors this month, and has been heralded as a sign of Pakistan’s Christians’ resilience in a state that has long suffered from attacks by Al-Qaida and Taliban extremists.
The church cost $3.8 million and 11 months to build, with donations coming in from Roman Catholics all over the world. It was built in the district of Azam Basti, which is home to approximately 15,000 Christians.
The megachurch is a domed, three-story building adorned with arches and Gothic spires. Stained-glass windows illustrate the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and large frescoes are painted on the interior walls.
While Pakistan is dotted with churches that date back to the 19th century, a time of British colonial rule, most of the structures tend to be of a simple design, many of which only have one single room for worship.
Some predominantly Muslim countries, such as Indonesia and Egypt, experience tension and sometimes violence during the construction of new churches. However, in Pakistan, churches are usually built in poor Christian neighborhoods, so protests are rarely sparked.
Christians account for three to five percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people and are split evenly between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, and at the time its leaders envisioned a liberal Muslim state that protected the rights of minority. However, since then, Islamist groups have gained ground and steadily pushed through laws that marginalize minorities.
Al-Qaida and Taliban militancy has risen over the past decade, and Christians have been a frequent target of shootings and bombings.
However, Father Diego of St. Karachi’s said that so far the church has not received any threats.