In Karachi Slum, a 5K-Seat Megachurch

Despite facing violence, extremism, Christianity keeps toe-hold in Pakistan
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2011 6:41 AM CST
In this Nov. 14, 2011, photo, the exterior of the newly built St. Peter's church is seen in Karachi, Pakistan. Pakistan's tiny and underfire Christian community thought big when constructing its latest...   (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
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(Newser) – Despite Pakistan's religious extremism and violence, a new Christian church, the largest in Pakistan, has just opened in Karachi, reports the AP. St. Peter's of Karachi, which opened on Nov. 9, is a domed, three-story building in the heart of a sprawling slum in Pakistan's largest city, big enough for 5,000 worshippers at a time. At a staggering cost of $3.8 million, with funds raised from around the world, St. Peter's symbolizes the resiliency of a religion that has come under increasing persecution from the state and militant groups over the past decade, say church leaders.

"There were so many people here it was not possible for us to accommodate them on Sundays," said Father Saleh Diego. "Some were sitting at the back, some in the corner, some on the terrace." Christians account for only around 3% to 5% of Pakistan's 180 million people, and are mostly former Hindus drawn from the lowest castes. Because most churches in Pakistan are built in the country's poorest neighborhoods, Christian leaders say they actually attract few threats from Muslims.

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