The Bakery JC Misquita who made hot cross bun in Karachi. (Photo: Naeem Sahoutara)

The Bakery JC Misquita who made hot cross bun in Karachi. (Photo: Naeem Sahoutara)

In the wake of a deadly attack targeting Christians in the Pakistani city of Lahore last week, one story of religious harmony is having an impact in the southern city of Karachi. 

Its there, that after a month spent observing Lent, the Christian community celebrated Easter with famous hot cross buns made by a Muslim baker.

The business has been running in Karachi for more than a century now.

Asia Calling’s correspondent, Naeem Sahoutara, has the story.

The market in Karachi’s commercial area is buzzing with last-minute shoppers ahead of Easter Sunday.

Christians are busy buying new clothes and gifts for their friends and family.

And many are also lining up to buy hot cross buns from JC Misquita Bakery, one of Pakistani’s longest-running bakeries.

Maria, 30, says it isn’t easy to buy Karachi’s famous hot cross buns. 

“Easy? No it’s not easy because it becomes a very big rush and that is why we come in advance so that we can have it on that day,” she says.

Its early morning of Holy Wednesday, but Maria has arrived at the bakery to buy three dozen hot cross buns for her family.

The shopkeeper, Muhammad Raza, asked her to place her order two days in advance.

There are other bakeries that sell hot cross buns during Lent but the most delicious are from JC Misquita, she says.

“They are fresh, they are nice,” she says, “They are tasty also compared. And the other bakeries they have, you know, they stick.”

Maria’s parents started buying the buns from the bakery many years ago and she is doing the same for her four children.

The bakery was initially opened in 1858 by a Christian man, Joseph Cason Misquita, in Central Karachi, a city where hundreds of families settled from the Portuguese colony of Goa.

Those from the tiny religious minority are known as “Goans”, and for bringing the Portuguese flavor of culture and food to Pakistan. Including, of course, hot cross buns.

Mechanic, 64-year-old Stanley Francis has been going to JC Misquita for years.

“He is very famous and very tasty and that’s why during our young days we had always been coming to him,” he says, “So, that is why the flavor is still over there, the art is still over there. How he makes the bun.”

Stanley’s parents used to buy buns at the bakery before he was born. 

And the Easter buns have since become a family tradition.

“It is the tradition, it has been going on for my great, great-grandfather. And hot cross buns are for the Good Friday actually. The bun is something special because it’s Good Friday. There is a cross there, our symbol is cross, yeah,” he says.

“You come here tomorrow morning, there will be a big rush here. On Friday after service you won’t have any place to stand here,” he adds. 


In the backyard of the shop workers are busy getting ready to place the unbaked buns in two large ovens.

After the death of its Christian owner many years ago, the bakery has since been run by a Muslim.

“Today, no one knows Misquita, it has become our identity now. And we are Muslim people.”

After his father’s death, Syed Abbas Zaidi took over the family business.

During Easter, the bakery sells up to 5,000 hot cross buns made by their loyal staff, he says.

“We have employed three generations of workers, who also worked with my father. We do not hire any outsiders. On special occasions we personally supervise the work, we cannot leave it to the workers only. This is how we have maintained this taste,” he explains.

Syed inspects each tray of baked buns that comes out of the hot ovens.

He explains to me how all the ingredients are mashed together before being dividing into small pieces.

Then the crosses are placed onto the buns before they baked again and then packaged.

On Good Friday the Christian community offered special prayers countrywide to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and for victims of terrorism.

Attacks on religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Shia have been on the rise in Pakistan over recent years.

But Syed Haider Abbas Zaidi, who is a Shia Muslim, says that for him religious should unite not divide.

“There is no difference between Muslims and Christians,” says Zaidi, “The entire Christians community living in Karachi knows us. We don’t differentiate between who is Christian and who is Muslim because our generations continue to live together.”

Despite the troubles here in Pakistan, there is hope that unity will triumph.

 

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