Goans in Pakistan - Issues before the
By Menin Rodrigues
NOTE: This piece was originally written in December 2003 for Goanet-News;
it has been updated by the author on the request of the editor of this
Souvenir brought out on the occasion of the International Goan
Convention in Toronto in July, 2008.
At the outset, let me give you the approximate number of Goans in
Pakistan and where they are located. There are an estimated 8.0 million
Christians of all denominations in a country of 160 million people.
Seventy-eight percent of Christians are concentrated in the
Punjab—mostly Urdu-speaking of Punjabi origin converted to Christianity
over several decades of missionary work in this part of the world.
Goans are mainly settled in the port city of Karachi, having migrated
here from Bombay (Mumbai) and Goa in search of employment in early 20th
century. A few Goan families live in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad,
Hyderabad and Quetta. There are about 2000 Goan families (social
indicators show an increase of 15-20 families per year) in Karachi,
mostly concentrated in five 'English' speaking parishes of the 18
parishes of the Archdiocese of Karachi.
There are about 25,000 Goans here. I don't think we have ever been more
than that number at any point in time since our existence in Pakistan.
Before and during the time of partition, not only were Goans prominent
in the civic, social, sports, business and political life of a new and
growing country but also were held in high esteem for their contribution
towards education and health care facilities.
Being prominent and at the helm of affairs then made Goans look larger
than life. However, with the passage of time our front-line image
started disintegrating and gradually Goans started to fade away; got
disillusioned and lost interest in the country. Most thought and
probably still think that the country did not have much to offer as a
future for their families.
Immigration has had its toll on the profile, caliber and quality of the
Goan human resource but not the numbers. Whilst former Karachiites have
opted for greener pastures, the newer families believe that in Pakistan
they have a place they can call 'home' and seriously think of making a
good living here for themselves and their children. It's not difficult
anymore to have a decent 'luxury' life with all the comforts and
conveniences, provided you have good education and the foresight and
competitiveness to succeed in the given circumstances. Here too, like
anywhere else in the world, survival is of the fittest as there is no
discrimination, and merit (candidates must have an assertive and
competitive attitude) can get anyone the job they want!
Of late, it has been known that some Christians, including Goans, have
resorted to claiming immigration and even seeking political asylum on
the pretext of discrimination and social injustice. To make matters
worse, it is alleged that some members of various church hierarchies
have issued letters supporting such claims.
Goans have a special place and respect in society and in any group or
organization in Pakistan because of their sincerity of purpose in
anything they take up. Hardworking, reliable, honest, trustworthy,
friendly and supportive (and above all fluent in English!) are some of
the hallmarks associated with a Goan candidate in any middle management
job market. However, for obvious reasons, top-slot jobs go to better
qualified and assertive candidates. In a few years from now (penned in
2003, now a reality in 2008), this too I believe will be the domain of
our young men and women who are presently doing quite well at university
and postgraduate studies; and at the same time adapting the local
awareness and way of life.
The Catholic church hierarchy, historically made up of Goan priests of
solid theological background, is now dwindling in numbers due to old
age—some have emigrated too; and there is hardly anyone at the Major or
Minor seminaries. Vocations from Goan families are a difficult
proposition. Pakistan's first and only Cardinal (The late Joseph
Cordeiro) was a Goan, the late Archbishops, Simeon Pereira of Karachi
and Armando Trinidade of Lahore and Larry Saldanha, the current
archbishop of Lahore, are Goans; Bishops Evarist Pinto of Karachi, the
late Bonaventure Paul and Bishops Max Rodrigues of Hyderabad and Joe
Coutts of Faisalabad have Goan backgrounds.
Amongst the senior Goan priests, most are well in their seventies and
eighties, with a few in their fifties, forties and thirties—that's it!
Altogether there are about 20 Goan priests, bishops, and archbishop. The
last Goan priest to be ordained was in 1991 and the most recent Fr.
Robert D'Lima was ordained in 2007.
Here is one of the major issues: the future of the Catholic Church in
Pakistan, and the institutions she governs, without Goan leadership!
Notwithstanding the above scenario, identity crisis is one of the major
issues for Goans in Pakistan today. Since there is not much to talk or
write about a Goan in mainstream Pakistan today, other than a few
isolated cases; no one really knows much about a D'Souza, Rodrigues,
Fernandes, Lobo, Pereira or a D'Mello—we are like foreigners in our own
Although there may be many Goan families still eager to emigrate to the
West, the post 9/11 realities have settled the dust. Emigration as in an
exodus movement is, hopefully, a thing of the past. Those who have left
Pakistan cannot really be classified as Goans of Pakistan anymore
because of their indifference to even understanding issues and
opportunities for Goans in Pakistan.
However, there is a new breed of Goan highfliers and achievers who, I
strongly believe, are on the sideline (now in mainstream workplace)
rearing to get a slice of the national and community scene. This group
of young men and women have its feet firmly on the ground, do not have
an identity problem, are fluent in the national language (with the
advantage of English as a strong backup), are street smart, have good
basic and professional education; and those 'former' Goans of Pakistan
now abroad mean nothing to them. Given the opportunity, in their own
individual capacities this upcoming group of Goans would be able to
handle all future issues concerning Goans in Pakistan.
There are several issues affecting the Christian community in Pakistan
but almost none concerning the Goan community - and if at all there are
some, are not necessarily of any major significance. This view may not
be shared by others, but I feel strongly about it, because if there are
any such issues, they are of our own making. Otherwise, life in general
for Goans in Pakistan is mundane, if not exciting and enjoyable, more
specifically within the confines of our parish precincts, homes and
One major issue, nevertheless, is lack of leadership— strong, assertive
and contemplative that has virtually brought about a lethargic approach
to understanding, evaluating and managing issues confronting Goans in
Pakistan. Here leadership may not mean Church leadership but leadership
amongst Goans themselves.
The Catholic community, historically with Goan leadership in the past,
has been the forerunners in many walks of life. This was a time when,
indeed, Goans were well-known because of their being in mainstream
national, social and community work. From church leaders to business
entrepreneurs and from armed forces personnel to being civil servants,
whether it was the judiciary, the police or other civic bodies, the
community was firmly rooted and well established. But that time for
Goans in Pakistan was another country!
Two major issues confronting the Goans in Pakistan are finding true
leadership and charting a course of direction for their existence in an
ever growing Islamic environment in the country, a country that has shot
into extraordinary prominence lately in the international media. There
is nothing alarming about being rooted in a Muslim country— it was
always meant to be one. Islam, as we see in the behavior and camaraderie
of our friends, neighbors and benefactors, is indeed a religion of
tolerance, caring, sharing and giving. Sometimes, we could even learn a
lesson or two from them. But, unfortunately, the West has misunderstood
As a matter of fact, whenever there has been a case of attack, arson and
desecration of our properties and institutions, it has been an aftermath
of the atrocities of the West towards underestimating and
misunderstanding the teachings of Islam and its followers. The reason
for such incidents in Pakistan is surely because of ignorance. People in
Pakistan, especially the masses (people at the helm of affairs certainly
know of the contribution of Christians to the national cause) ought to
know that Christians in Pakistan are not connected in anyway to the way
the West thinks of Islam and the Middle East.
We have been somewhat lucky with having our test cricketer Yousuf
Youhana—with merit personified—in the Pakistan cricket team. His bold
display of making the Sign of the Cross upon reaching a 50 or a 100 is,
probably, the only sign of Christians being in Pakistan for the millions
of masses who follow the game of cricket like their second religion. Two
Goans have played test cricket for Pakistan in the late fifties, the
late Wallis Mathais and Antao D'Souza. (Note: Youhana is now known as
Mohammad Yousuf since his conversion to Islam two years ago)
In order to find true leadership amongst Goans, Goans themselves must
not be dependent on Church leaders to chart a direction for them as a
community because unfortunately there has been none! The focus should be
on Goan culture, its way of life, the language, food and sweet meats,
its rich traditions—a wonderful opportunity that stands right before us.
Now that we have access to Information Technology all this can be shared
and 'learnt' because I am sure Goans in Pakistan need refresher
information on Goan culture and traditions from Goans all over the
Goans have always been in Pakistan and will always be here. There are
more chances than none that a young Goan family today will prefer to
stay back and make a living here. It's up to these young future parents
on how they bring up their children, teaching them values that are
constructive and not detrimental to their growth as dynamic decision
makers for the next lot of generations to come. Honestly speaking, Goans
in Pakistan are as safe, secure and successful as one could dream
of...it's only a matter of the mindset.
On a saner note, I must stress and drive home a point about the
'nation-state' of the Goan—we gypsies don't have a home, do we? The
urbanization, commercialization and pilferage of Goa (I have not seen
but only heard and yet believe) and the recent gory happenings
surrounding Goa beaches are troublesome. Is Goa disintegrating? Can Goa
be a home to us again? Are expatriate Goans simply thriving on lip
service? Should we all descend upon Goa as the proverbial prodigal sons
and daughters and save Goa? I know Goa will forgive us for abandoning
her. Can we work selflessly for an independent State of Goa?
Concluding, I must comment that our two Goan institutions, the
historical Karachi Goan Association (more than 100 years old) and the
erstwhile offshoot, the Goan Union (it seems defunct now) must open up
their doors and invite all Goans to become members. Leadership must be
passed on to the hands of younger, dynamic, well-educated Goan youth so
that they 'move and shake' the Goans out of their deep slumber!
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