The Vatican has gone multicultural. In a welcome embrace of diversity, in tandem with the modern age, Pope Francis recently appointed 14 new cardinals from as far afield as Iraq, Madagascar, Japan. And Pakistan. Joseph Coutts, the Archbishop of Karachi, is this country’s second-ever cardinal. And it has taken some 24 years to get here. Which only increases the sense of pride that Pakistan should be feeling. But before anyone and everyone becomes carried away; slapping themselves on the back over how this elevation will spotlight the country on the religious pluralism stage, allow us to be very clear about a couple of things. The credit goes entirely to Pakistan’s Christian community; which knows a thing or two about acting with grace under fire. Thus the recognition of Cardinal Coutts’ commitment to his creed is all the sweeter given the very real risks of persecution that confront all minority groups here. And while his appointment has been hailed as a boost for inter-faith harmony — it must be remembered that the greater responsibility towards this end rests with the majority religion; since the latter holds a positon of (relative) power. This is something to which Pakistani Muslims should be a little sensitive. Not least because of the legitimate preoccupation with the plight of their brethren in the West. Then there is the not un-small matter of how Pakistan is a country facing the threat of Islamist extremism. This, for the most part, feeds off already existing anti-American sentiment. But it also exacerbates the phenomenon. All of which places the country’s Christian community in a doubly precarious position. Namely, from a religious right that not only seeks to persecute non-Muslims but also chooses to conveniently view Christians through the anti-western prism. Simply because of religious commonality. Those who are guilty of such wilful myopia remain unapologetic for the most part. This is not an entirely unreasonable assumption, they argue. After all, look at how the Muslim world is united under the banner of shared faith. And how it mobilises to defend the rights of Muslims everywhere. Except that from Palestine to Yemen to Qatar nothing could be further from the truth. This is to say nothing of the ethno-sectarianism that has long gripped both Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is time that certain elements in this country stopped contriving to judge Christians with the actions of Muslims around the world. The priority has to be sincerely striving for religious pluralism here at home. And this begins by not hanging on to the coattails of a minority group that routinely comes under fire; especially in terms of false allegations of blasphemy. But by strengthening community ties; extending beyond sporadic bouts of solidarity activism to include security guarantees and legislative protection. This must be the prerequisite for true inter-faith harmony. And Muslims bear the lion’s share of responsibility in this regard. For Pakistan’s minorities deserve more than causal tokenism. * Published in Daily Times, July 5th 2018.