The administrative region of Gilgit-Baltistan, in northern Pakistan, is located on the border with Afghanistan, Xinjiang in China and Jammu-and-Kashmir in India. The heart of the Himalayas, which reach heights of five of the highest peaks in the world, this area traversed by the Indus river is home to 1.3 million inhabitants, forming a mosaic of mountain people with a muslim majority.
This is where, in the chain of the mountains of the Karakoram, that three researchers from the university of Baltistan in Skardu, accompanied by villagers and mountain guides have found a marble cross, measuring about 2.1 m by 1.8 m and weighing between three and four tons. They have been found two kilometers from the base camp, at altitude, near the village of Kavardo, as they have said during a press conference on June 14.
These three researchers have made on the site are the vice-chancellor of the university, Muhammad Naeem Khan, the director of studies, Zakir Hussain Zakir, and the head of the external relations of the university, Ishtiaq Hussain Maqpoon.
According to their first estimates, the ” Cross of Kavardo “, as it is called now, would have between 1 000 and 1 200 years old. But the university of Baltistan, who wants to pursue the research, plans to partner with institutes in europe and north america on the one hand, and local historians on the other hand, to determine the exact age of the cross, which is already” among one of the largest on the indian sub-continent “according to Wajid Bhatti, another researcher from the university of Baltistan.
“Great news” for the christian minority
This dating, if confirmed, would document the former presence of christianity in the himalayan region, which can only rejoice the christian minority of Pakistan, so often discriminated against and abused. ” This is really a great news for all of uscommended the director-general of Caritas Pakistan, Mansha Noor. This shows that christianity already existed in the region at the time, and that there had to be a church and christian homes. Currently, there is no christian family does not live there, but it was clearly the case at the time. “
On his side, a banker, a catholic in Karachi, Norman Gill, insisted that” christians can go on the site to see the cross, once all the formalities will be completed “. The vice-chancellor of the university of Baltistan, Muhammad Khan, as part of the discovery of the cross, was raised as if she was” descended from the heavens directly on the Karakoram “.
The small town of Skardu is on the axis which now allows the linking Pakistan to China, and was formerly on the silk road. It is therefore possible, according to Béatrice Caseau, teacher of byzantine history at the Sorbonne University, that ” christianity was brought to this mountainous region by christian merchants from the middle East “.
” Even if there is a lack of sources to know with certainty where they have gone, we know that the christians of the world persia, using the language syriac, came to the region of the Indus between the Fifth and the Eighth centuries, until the arrival of islamcontinues Béatrice Caseau. We found traces of christians” nestorian” in China as early as the Seventh century, and it was necessarily of the trade throughout the region, including on the religious level. “