A giant cross estimated to be at least 1,200 years old has been discovered in the mountains of Pakistan and could include hints of Christianity’s early presence there.
The marble rock cross, weighing three to four tons and spanning seven feet from top to bottom, was found by a team from the University of Baltistan, Skardu in the Himalayan mountains near Baltistan, according to Union of Catholic Asian News.
Researchers discussed the findings at a press conference in mid-June.
Bordered by Afghanistan, Iran, India and China, Pakistan is a majority Muslim country, with more than 96 percent of its citizens practicing Islam.
Caritas Pakistan, a Catholic organization, celebrated the find.
“It is indeed great news for all of us that an ancient cross was found in Skardu,” said Mansha Noor, executive director of Caritas Pakistan. “It shows that Christianity existed in this area and there must be a church and houses of Christians. There are currently no Christian families in that area, but they were once present.
“I request the authorities invite international historians to find out more about the accurate history of the cross.”
Christians in Pakistan frequently face persecution for their faith. Byzantine history expert Béatrice Caseau told Barnabus Fund the cross could be evidence that Middle East merchants brought the gospel to the region.
"Even if we lack the sources to know with certainty where they passed, we know that Christians from the Persian world, using the Syriac language, came to the Indus region between the fifth and eighth centuries, until the arrival of Islam,” Caseau said.
One Pakistani Christian leader told Barnabus Fund, “Praise the Lord, this makes me very joyful. It will be a great encouragement to Christians in Pakistan to show that our faith was here many, many generations ago, before Islam came. This is amazing news! I am looking forward to what the research outcome will reveal about Christianity in Pakistan.”
Photo courtesy: ©University of Baltistan Skardu
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.