Fear Fear is a strong word. It penetrates – if I say that just uttering the word “fear” punctures my nerves, I’m not exaggerating a thing. Ironically, even the reminisce of a certain event carrying the essence of fear has the potential to scare you even after ages. I believe that essence of fear just becomes part of you. 31 October, 2018 carries the same essence of fear for me. My mother wanted me to stay at home that day but for a quiz I couldn’t skip university that day. The classes went by till 11am as per usual. All our classes after 11 am got cancelled and I was happy that I got to go home early. For me, it was a day of change in Pakistan, a day when a falsely accused innocent was acquitted, and one of prevalence and justice until I made my way to the university bus stand. The bus stand was already heaped with students. It was almost 3 in the afternoon. Soon, the students waiting for the buses were informed the university buses would not leave the parameters of university. This was the first insight about the situation outside the university. It was like a nightmare that was going to haunt me for quite some time. I stood along with those students in hopes that I might figure out a way to go to home with them. At first, things were normal until someone mentioned that “Aasia bibi would be released today”. One thing you’re taught as a minority in Pakistan is to keep your mouth shut in religious debates, or literally anything related to religion. There have been so many stories that I’m not allowed to write because as a minority, we enjoy confined freedom of speech. If I am to write it more precisely we are endangered by the very words we write because we don’t know how someone might frame us one day using these words. Even our social media profiles are monitored by our parents to make sure we don’t share any endangering content. We weren’t allowed to share an opinion regarding Aasia Bibi for 8 years anywhere. Stone deaf, I pretended I wasn’t hearing a thing, while the kids around me ranted about how wrong this move is, how she must be punished. The ranting continued for quite some time and in the mean time I was just trying to contact my family. Among this hassle I heard a composed voice proclaiming a mandate that shook me to my core “we ought to punish all these Christians, if the government lacks to punish these people then we must”. I tried to ignore the person’s voice by listening to a harmony of “labaik”. I rushed away from that spot. The roads were jammed, and I had no way out of the university- even the local transport service was terminated. The fear of being trapped in the university ran through my system and I felt like every eye that glanced at me felt the fear radiating off my body. Wearing a cross is not only a symbol of proclaiming my faith out loud but also a pendant of reliability for me. That day when I was sitting in the university corridor, I observed how eyes were scanning the little cross pendant hanging from my neck. Slightly glancing at someone’s cross and observing it in a proper way to target them with your eyes is different. I just knew I had to get away from everyone. Even though there wasn’t anything happening, fear is enough for your mind to go insane. I was paranoid and I just knew I must run away. I hurried to the “EE” department and before my mind could comprehend where I was headed, I boarded the elevator and unintentionally got on to the 4th floor. All I knew, was that I needed to get away from people. And that’s what I did, I there on a secluded floor until I had a way of getting home. Many have told me over the passage of time that it was just my mind and nothing else. But I know what I experienced, I know how terrorized I felt that day. Perhaps we have so many incidents of mobs killing innocents in the name of religion that I didn’t want to take the risk. We all have the right to follow and practice the religion of our choice. Why snatch this right from someone? I felt so targeted on the 31st of October for merely wearing the symbol of my religion. It just astonishes me that minorities cannot practice their religion freely. I’m sharing my part of story after a while, because us minorities don’t even have the right to speak about the blasphemy law. That’s how deep this fear runs. Even in this article I tried to avoid the subject of blasphemy as far as I could. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who felt targeted just for wearing a cross that day. All I hope for as a minority, is to not witness such moments of fear over and over.