A pastor has established the first transgender exclusive church for professing Christians who otherwise feel rejected from traditional Christian churches in Pakistan.
Ghazala Shafique, a rare female pastor in the country, explained to the Associated Press that she named the church the “First Church for Eunuchs” as scripture shows that eunuchs are favored by God. The term is reportedly used for transgender women in South Asia, even though some find it to be derogatory.
According to Christian News, biblical commentaries assert that the term “eunuch” actually refers to men who choose to remain single and not take a wife because of “physical circumstances” or because of their devout commitment to serving God (see Matthew 19:12).
Shafique was given the idea for the church by Neesha Rao, the country’s only transgender lawyer. Rao, who is a Muslim, lamented as to how her Christian transgender friends have struggled to announce their faith while fearing criticism from other Christians because of their lifestyle.
“I am a Muslim child and a Muslim transgender, but I had a pain in my heart for the Christian transgenders,” the Rao explained. She added that she attends Shafique church on a weekly basis.
She also criticized clerics for their treatment of their transgender congregants as well as parents for their rejection of transgender children.
In Pakistani churches, transgender people are told to sit in the back and males are instructed not to dress as women.
Arsoo, a biological man who identifies as a woman, explained that he had a rough time finding a place to sit in a church where men and women are seated in separate sections. He explained that he was told by the women to sit with the men while the men told him to sit with the women.
Additionally, churches where Arsoo attended told him not to sing as they considered it a “dishonor” for transgender people to partake in a worship service.
Video footage posted by the AP shows transgender people and children singing and playing instruments during a service in Shafique’s church.
A sign behind the podium features the name of the church and the term “khwaja siras,” which translates to “transgender.”
The Church of Pakistan, the denomination Shafique serves under, has refused her attempts to get the church recognized.
“I asked the bishop of the Church of Pakistan. He said, ‘Oh, there are some theological issues,’” she explained. “I am still waiting to hear what are those theological issues which cannot be resolved when they are accepted in the Bible.”
While Pakistan is an overly conservative country, transgender people were officially recognized as a third gender.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Alexmia
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.