One-millenium old cross discovered in Pakistan confirms ancient Christian presence in the region

Three University of Baltistan researchers, led by Vice-Chancellor Muhammad Khan, found last month a giant marble cross at the foot of the Karakorum Mountains, in the Pakistani village of Kavardo. It is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. This confirms ancient Christian presence in a country that has subsequently become predominantly Islamic. 

The cross is 2.1 x 1.8 meters and weighs approximately four tons, being probably the largest cross on the Indian Subcontinent. Its age has been estimated to 1,000 – 1,200 years. The location of the discovery is close to the ancient Silk Road, a historical commercial route formerly linking China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Europe.

Byzantine history expert Béatrice Caseau from the University of Paris – Sorbonne, declared the object indicates that Christianity was brought to the region through the merchants from the Middle East.

“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.”

Traces of Christians from the Primary Church, dating back to the seventh century, have also been found in today’s China.

Gulshan Barkat, a Catholic priest from Pakistan specialized in Church History at the  Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, wrote that a monastery might have existed in the area where the cross was found.

In the fifth century, almost one-third of the Persian Empire was Christian, he explained. Ctesiphon, also known as Seleucia, was the Capital City of the empire and the center of Christianity in the area, while the city of “Herat, in present-day Afghanistan, was raised to metropolitan diocese in or before year 585”.

The news was greeted with joy by the Pakistani Christians, now a marginalized and often persecuted minority in the country.

Photo credit: Facebook / Muhammad Naeem Khan

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