If we start to ponder in History we came to know that in Pakistan Christianity was first introduced in Punjab .In 1948-50 Pastor John Newton and Pastor Forman started preaching Gospel in Lahore .F C College (Forman Christian College) in Lahore is still a living proof of this fact which is in the name of Pastor Forman. Punjabi Christians are also having the credit to preach the Gospel in other Provinces of Pakistan. Punjab is also proud to be at this many Christian Scholars belongs to this Land (Punjab).
The name of Sadhu Sunder Singh is at the top level of the Punjabi Christian preachers. An American university appreciated the preaching services of Pastor Imam Din Shehbaz (I D Shehbaz) In such a manner to give him an honorary doctorate degree. He translated the book of Psalms into Punjabi Language in Poetic way and composed the lyrics in typical tunes. Everey where in the world where Punjabi Christian are living they sung the hymens of Pastor I D Shehbaz which were translated by him.
Joshua Fazal Din is known as the first preacher in Punjabi Christians who preached by Punjabi literature. He was the Government minister of Law and Treasure in Punjab. At that time the government appreciated Joshua Fazal Din for his services regarding Native Language (Punjabi) in shape of Tamgha-e- Imtiaz (An Honorary meddle). The Government not just appreciated Him but all the Punjabi Christians. Till the time Muslims And Sikh Punjabi scholars regards him in the field of literature. The greatest achievement of Joshua Fazal din was that he translated the Gospel in Poetic way into Punjabi Language and introduced a new strategy in preaching. There are many other names that use Punjabi Language to preach.
And now when we think about our present situation we feel very bad that we left the right way and going on a wrong way .It is a bitter reality that the rate of literacy is very poor in Punjab. Approximately 10% Christians in Punjab are educated and among them just 4 to 5 % are illegible to get Higher education .In Punjab a larger community of Punjabi Christians are living in rural areas where the literary rate is just 3 to 5 %.
Being known to all these facts if we think we came to know that the innocent Punjabi Christians are deceived. Pastors, Preachers, Fathers, and evangelists are betraying community in religious services. People who are not known to Urdu and English they are taught in these languages. Paul was the greatest preacher said that “…. rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach other also, than ten thousand words in an unknown Language” but reading all these things we do not want to act upon these words. Then how we say that we are the biggest preacher of Religion? Are we conveying the religious knowledge to Christians? We are working very hard to spread the Christian religion .The thing we have to ponder is that how many people are understanding and learning which we are teaching? We are doing against God’s work God developed a system he used the native language to convey His message, As God choose Moses for Jews to give His message and God used their native Language (Hebrew) even though Moses was well known to Kuldani, Egypetian, And Babylonian Languages But God knows that His Chosen nation (Israel) Speaks Hebrew SO for their better understating He gave His commandment In Hebrew Language. Same condition was at the time of Psalms king David and other Hebrew poets also left their writing and God’s commands in Hebrew language. We all are well aware about it that the language of Old Testament was Greek because the native language of those people was Greek. If the compilers of the Holy Bible just write in Hebrew Language than it was just for Jews. How Luke And Mark could share the Gospel with others? If we gave an Arabic Bible to a person who dose not know Arabic how much he would understand, and know Jesus, You can guess it by yourself .We know it is wrong method but till the time we are doing same.
Today How lucky the Sindhi people (A Province Of Pakistan out of 4 Provinces, Punjab, Sindh, Sarhad, Balochistan) they can read and understand Holy Bible in their native Language So many Books are published to understand the Christian faith and many are under process .The Inhabitants of Sarhad can read and understand the Holy Bible in their native language (Pushto). The people of Balochistan also can get the Holy Bible and other Faith prompting books in their native Language (Balochi and Barahwi). But till the time Punjabi Christians who are more than 50 % of Christians in Pakistan are facing a problem these are millions but they do not have the holy Bible In their Native Language (Punjabi) and no other Books. They are just enduring the morsel of Urdu And English rather than understand. Even some times people are compelled to say, “Dear Pastor Sermon was very good but I did not understand any thing”.
This time Pakistan Bible Society did not have Punjabi translation of Holy Bible For Punjabi Christians even they are not yet trying to publish such translation. In 1884 Hill sermon was published in Persian and in latter years the first 5 books of the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and acts) were Published in Punjabi at last in 1912 the whole new testament was published and for the sake of language progression and due to division of Punjab it was edited and republished in 1952.Pastor Qadir Bux was appointed in 1951 to edit and correct this translation again but after his death in 1954 it was stopped and after this no one has tried to continue this work any other Christian organization did not strive to translate the Holy Bible in Punjabi Language .Old testament is still deprived of the Punjabi translation.
Even the biggest publisher of Christian books in Pakistan (Situated in Lahore Pakistan) did not feel the need of any Punjabi Christian book also never tried to translate any Urdu faith prompting Christian book in Punjabi .At this time Punjab has the honor to have the largest number of Bible colleagues, Seminaries, Bible institutes but we regret to say that no one has his curriculum in Punjabi and they never teach their students in Punjabi Language. At this time there are many Christian institutes in Pakistan that are busy in teaching people through correspondence there is an institution situated in Faisal Abad (A city of Punjab) they had their courses in Sindhi, Balochi, and pushto also with English and Urdu Courses, Head office of this institute is situated in FaisalAbad they also had a branch office in Rawalpindi (A city of Punjab) They have 2 offices in Punjab But they don’t have any Punjabi Course for Punjabi Christians. Where would the people go who are willing to solve the courses in Punjabi language?
There are many Christian digests and papers are published Punjab has the share of more than 80% of this publishing. Even any church, Ministry, journalist did not feel the need of Punjabi Christian of any Christian Punjabi newspaper or Digest.
If we compare ourselves with our neighbors (India) we are more than 100 back than them they have done a lot to preach in their Native Language. They have their curriculum of Bible colleagues, Bible Schools, Bible institutes in their Native Language lecture are been delivered in Punjabi Language more than 25 Punjabi Christian digest are published there Countless books, translations and courses are published Bible society of India is Publishing new Punjabi versions of Holy Bible now Punjabi (Gurmukhi) Bible translation is available on internet.
But we regret to say we did not yet done any great work to be proud of it for the progression of preaching in Native Language we are unable to continue the work that our elders started. How unlucky those people are who are not able to read and listen the Word of God in their native language this is the reason our people specially those who are not well educated are not known to the basic of Christian faith. When they are taught in the church with a un understandable language how will they tell others about it? When some one will ask any thing about religion or faith they will not be able to answer him.
The best way of preaching is to teach the community in their native language that they may understand it more and more. Foreigner missionaries first prefer to learn the language of the area where they have to live. Pastor John Newton and Pastor Forman are the best example to be followed in this way they came from other countries and prefer our native language but we the main inhabitants of Punjab are ashamed to speak our native language. One day I asked a reputed church’s pastor, Dear pastor Have you ever deliver a sermon in Punjabi? With a frown face he answered it seems to be very indecent and rude if you speak Punjabi. I felt very sad by his words I answered him dear pastor it is not indecent to deliver a sermon in Punjabi, indecentness or rudeness is this, if no one understands your sermon. Indecentness is this if you make yourself superior in front of your listeners by using complicated words from Greek, Hebrew, Latin and English to make them feeling illiterate. When and editor of a Christian bulletin published from Faisalabad came to know my thinking he gave a verdict to be a heretic or tyrant. If preaching in native language is heretic than Sadhu Sunder sigh swami, Pastor Imam Din Shehbaz, Joshua fazal din and the translator and the dubbers of the Jesus Film are more heretic than me. When we leave our mother language and preach in other languages than how much we will be able to make our preaching fruitful if no one will understand it? We feel very proud to deliver sermons in Urdu and English .If you desire the progression of Christian Faith and preaching than please prefer our native language to other languages.
(Author is Director of Christian Punjabi Fellowship based in Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan)