When archaeologists found this ancient artifact in the mountains of Pakistan, they were stunned.
You see, it’s a majority Muslim country, and the 2% of the population who are Christian face some of the most brutal persecution in the world.
But this incredible new discovery proves Christians have a history in Pakistan that long pre-dates their Muslim oppressors.
Hailing from the University of Baltistan in Skardu, Pakistan, the archaeological team focused their efforts on an area of the Himalayas near Baltistan and Skardu.
They were searching for anything of historical significance in the mountains, but they weren’t expecting to find the huge cross.
The “Kavardo Cross,” as it has been dubbed, is crafted from beautiful white marble. It weighs three to four tons and is over seven feet tall!
It’s “among one of the largest [crosses] on the Indian subcontinent,” according to Wajid Bhatti, one of the researchers.
Located near what was once the “Silk Road” trade route between China and Pakistan, the Kavardo Cross is carved in a style similar to a traditional Buddhist carving—but it’s definitely not a Buddhist symbol!
This suggests that the cross’s creators were converts to Christianity from Buddhism. In fact, the Baltistan-Skardu area of Pakistan once contained both Christian and Buddhist communities, according to early research.
Beatrice Caseau, a history expert and consultant for the team, reflected on the idea that merchants from the Middle East brought Christianity to the Himalayas.
“Even if we lack the sources to know with certainty where they passed [where the trade routes were], 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 added, “Traces of…Christians have been found in China since the seventh century, and there were bound to be exchanges throughout the region, including on the religious level.”
It’s exciting to find artifacts like this cross, which celebrate the spread of the Gospel around the world over the centuries and point to God’s faithfulness!
And the more they study the cross, the more the archaeological team learns about Christian history in Pakistan.
One archaeologist, Muhammad Naeem Khan, marveled at the secluded location of the cross, describing the discovery as if “it had come down from the sky directly on the Karakoram [mountain region].”
The team isn’t yet sure exactly how old the artifact is, but early estimates have shown that it could be at least 1200 years old.
This is an incredibly important discovery for Pakistan’s 4 million Christians, who are persecuted, marginalized, and exiled in everyday life.
With more than 96 percent of all Pakistani citizens practicing Muslim, Christians are a tiny minority.
But they’re hanging on courageously, and this cultural artifact could strengthen their hope.
“It is indeed great news for all of us [Christians] that an ancient cross was found in Skardu,” said Mansha Noor, the executive director of Caritas Pakistan, a Catholic organization within the country.
“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,” Noor admitted, “but they were once present.”
Noor called on Pakistani authorities to verify the age and history of the Kavardo Cross, citing its importance to Pakistani Christians.
“I request the authorities invite international historians to find out more about the accurate history of the cross.”
According to the team, this is the first Christian cross found in the Baltistan region.
If preliminary dating estimates are correct, this artifact would attest to the ancient presence of Christianity in the Himalayas—even predating Islam within the country.
“Praise the Lord, this makes me very joyful,” said one Pakistani Christian leader.
“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.”
Other Pakistani Christians are excited as well, and they can’t wait to see the Kavardo Cross for themselves.
“The Christians here should be allowed to visit the area and see the cross once all formalities are completed,” asserted Normal Gill, a Catholic banker from Karachi.
Please pray that the discovery of the Kavardo Cross will encourage Christians across Pakistan, and pray that the national government will open the site for visits!