Historic Decision: "Masihi" to Replace "Esai" for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Christian Community

Peshawar, October 26, 2023 - In a momentous decision, Pakistan's Supreme Court, in accordance with directives from the central government, has issued an order that will have far-reaching implications for the Christian community residing in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The decision mandates the replacement of the term "Esai" with "Masihi" at the government level, marking a significant shift in Pakistan's approach to recognizing and respecting the cultural and religious identity of its Christian minority.

A Long-Awaited Change: For many years, Pakistan's Christian community has been actively advocating for the use of "Masihi" as a more respectful and accurate reference in official government documents and communications. The term "Esai" had been historically employed to identify Christians but often carried connotations that did not align with the Christian identity.

This monumental change is part of broader efforts in Pakistan aimed at promoting religious tolerance, inclusivity, and safeguarding minority rights. It serves as a testament to the government's commitment to upholding the principles of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the country's constitution.

Supreme Court's Landmark Decision: The decision to replace "Esai" with "Masihi" was issued by a two-member bench, led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ejazul Ahsan. The ruling comes in response to a petition submitted by Samuel Payara, Chairman of the Implementation of Minorities Rights Forum, which sought the use of "Masihi" in place of "Esai."

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) swiftly acted upon the directive by removing the word "Esai" from voter enrolment forms, replacing it with "Masihi." The ECP's proactive response has set a precedent for other government departments to follow suit.

Joyful Response from the Christian Community: Leaders and advocates within the Christian community have greeted this development with heartfelt enthusiasm and gratitude. They regard it as a significant step toward recognizing and respecting their cultural and religious preferences. The decision to replace "Esai" with "Masihi" is seen as a tangible expression of the government's unwavering dedication to religious tolerance and coexistence.

A Path Forward: Despite the Supreme Court's order and the approval of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), some government departments have been slow in implementing the change. Nevertheless, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has taken the lead in embracing the directive, setting an exemplary standard for others to emulate.

Yousaf, a representative of The Edge Foundation, expressed his deep appreciation for the ECP's swift action and commitment to the cause. He emphasized that this development marks only the initial step in a broader initiative. Ongoing efforts are underway to encourage various government departments, businesses, and organizations to adopt the use of "Masihi" in all their publications and documentation.

A Step Towards Unity: The decision to replace "Esai" with "Masihi" at the government level not only signifies a change in terminology but also underscores a profound commitment to respecting and honouring the diverse identities that constitute Pakistan's rich tapestry of cultures and faiths. It reflects the nation's ongoing journey toward fostering greater religious understanding and unity among its people.