A humble pastor

January 29, 2023

Pastor Shahid will be remembered for his efforts to promote interfaith harmony

Share Next Story >>>


he Dean of Lahore Cathedral Shahid P Mehraj, commonly known as Padari Shahid, was not only prominent in the Christian community in Pakistan but was also well-known in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities. This was evident by the attendance of diverse religious communities at his funeral in Lahore on December 16, 2022.

Padari Shahid was born in 1964 and completed his early education at Lahore’s Donbasco School and Diyal Singh College. He received theological education from St Thomas Theological College Karachi Seminary. Since 1994, he had served as a priest at the Lahore Cathedral Church of Resurrection.

The humble, down-to-earth Padri Shahid had a resilient spirit. He struggled unfailingly against land mafias, illegally grabbing and selling church properties across Pakistan. He fought several legal battles to protect church properties and never gave up, even at the cost of his health. Rebecca, Padari Shahid’s wife, remembers, “he used to wake up at 3am in the morning to travel to Islamabad for court hearings“.

A few years ago, Padari Shahid shared with me, that the fate of almost 80 percent church properties, all the way from Karachi to Peshawar, was left hanging in legal disputes. In 2016, he along with his church congregation weekly staged peaceful protests against the government’s intent to take over land from four churches in Lahore in order to extend the Orange Line train network. He vehemently opposed the taking over of the Cathedral Church ground for a pumping station for the train’s drainage system and lodged a public protest. Finally, the Lahore Development Authority accepted the demand.

He believed in exercising political agency from the margins. Decked in a white church cloak, he used to be conspicuously spotted in public protests on issues pertaining to human rights.

Padari Shahid filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to resolve problems faced by Christian couples who wanted to legally register their marriages. In 2019, the Supreme Court, in its verdict on Human Rights Case No 32642-P of 2018, directed union councils to register Christian marriages in accordance with the law, and to NADRA to issue computerised marriage certificates. At the same time, the Local Government and Human Rights Departments of the Government of Punjab were also directed to make rules and necessary amendments in the by-laws to reflect the legal position.

Padari Shahid oft-repeated, “never a singular force can claim a monopoly over God. Therefore, we need to focus on our shared cause of protecting and promoting values of love and solidarity among the people irrespective of their class, caste, colour and creed.”

In 1990, he was vocal in a socio-political campaign against the government’s decision to include a column for religion on national identity cards.

As a strong advocate of interfaith harmony and peaceful cohesion, Padari Shahid made immense contributions in building friendship and alliances among Muslim and Christian clergy and also hosted interfaith gatherings at the Lahore Cathedral. Continuing with his commitment to inculcating values of peace and a violence-free society, he regularly invited students and researchers from colleges and universities to the Lahore Cathedral. In the event of an interfaith conflict among people, especially those hailing from grassroots communities, he used to contact the Muslim clergy and resolve matters which otherwise could have escalated into mob violence or intense conflicts if left unattended.

From remote Christian settlements in the Punjab to urban cities, Padari Shahid used to travel to offer pastoral care, solace and support to downtrodden communities. For many church-going families suffering financial, social or legal problems, Padari Shahid was the first person for advice and support. His doors were always open for the poor, even during late hours. He was always one willing to listen to the pains and perils of the people and to connect them to support avenues.

Over the last few years, Padari Shahid had started organizing events to mark national days at the Lahore Cathedral, giving visibility to the cathedral in several national songs that were choreographed by the ISPR and other musicians. Calling Padari Shahid, a dedicated servant of the Lord and a committed nationalist, Emeritus Bishop of Lahore Dr Alexander John Malik said that his sad demise was a big loss to the church and the Christian community in Pakistan.

Padari Shahid oft-repeated, “never a singular force can claim a monopoly over God. Therefore, we need to focus on our shared cause of protecting and promoting values of love and solidarity among the people irrespective of their class, caste, colour and creed.”

Dr Kalyan Singh, an assistant professor at the Government College University, Lahore said that “Padari Shahid was a prominent voice in Lahore, who nurtured many interfaith friendships. Now, a humble soul had departed at a time when we most needed voices like him to stand up against social intolerance and communal polarisation.”

The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Forman Christian College University

More From Political Economy