Pakistani Christians celebrate Christmas 4 months after attacks

Christian devotees take part in a Christmas prayer at the Bethel Memorial Methodist church in Quetta on December 25, 2023.
Christian devotees take part in a Christmas prayer at the Bethel Memorial Methodist church in Quetta on December 25, 2023. | BANARAS KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Four months after the attacks on dozens of churches and Christians' homes by Muslim mobs in Pakistan, the Christian minority fervently and enthusiastically celebrated Christmas. Across the country, churches and streets were adorned with festive lights and trees, reflecting their resilient spirit.

Dressed in festive attire, worshipers gathered with their families in churches for prayer services, the markets bustled with Christmas merchandise, and children, donning Santa Claus outfits, added to the holiday cheer, the local newspaper Dawn reported.

At a human rights ministry event in the federal capital Islamabad on Saturday, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar underscored that all citizens of Pakistan, regardless of their faith, were entitled to equal rights, Arab News reported.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

The event brought together leaders from various faiths to celebrate Christmas. Kakar extended festive greetings to the Christian community on behalf of the Pakistani government and people.

Special programs were held in churches across major cities like Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, according to Pakistan Today, which said the government facilitated the celebrations by providing advance salaries and leaves to Christian employees and ensuring security arrangements for churches.

Pastor Faheem Shahzad, head of the Presbyterian Church, reflected on the day’s spiritual significance, noting that Christians pray for peace and unity during Christmas. “Christmas is our happiest day,” he was quoted as saying. “People come to churches to attend prayers and participate in various functions. I am thankful to God that people always express love, peace, and unity through these prayers.”

Pakistan has been facing challenges to religious harmony, particularly affecting the Christian minority. In August, Jaranwala town in Punjab Province’s Faisalabad district witnessed significant unrest. Two Christian men were accused of desecrating the Quran, leading to one of the most destructive attacks against Pakistani Christians. The incident, which fortunately resulted in no casualties, was met with widespread condemnation from political and religious leaders across the nation. “We will resist all kinds of fascism,” Kakar stated.

The Christmas carol procession in Jaranwala was led by Pastor Rizwan Mill. Children and adults alike participated, with the procession ending at a church previously damaged in the attacks, the BBC reported.

Christians in Jaranwala are still recovering from the attacks. Nearly two dozen churches and numerous homes were ransacked and torched, leaving deep scars. The government has assisted in rebuilding, but some families are still grappling with the aftermath. Despite receiving compensation, the extent of the damage has made full recovery challenging.

Sonam, a resident, expressed ongoing fears and difficulties in regaining trust.

“We don’t feel safe here,” the BBC quoted Sonam as saying. “The fear that entered our hearts is still there. Any shouting in the street, everyone goes out to see what is happening because we are so scared. It’s very hard to trust again.

As Pakistan’s Christian community celebrated Christmas, they carried with them a sense of hope and a desire for a peaceful future.

“We hope that whatever has passed has passed. That is what we want. That is what we pray for,” Sonam said.

Christians make up roughly 1.6% of Pakistan’s 241 million population.

In the country, violating Section 295-B, which carries the blasphemy law, could lead to life imprisonment. Accusations often lead to mob violence, with little consequence for false accusers.

Lower courts often bow to Islamist pressure, leading to numerous convictions.

In January, a Muslim woman was sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy via text messages, marking another rare instance of such a ruling against a Muslim.

Speaking to the BBC about Christmas, Captain Ali Zia, a city police officer, acknowledged the need to rebuild trust and ensure justice. “As a society and as a police force we have to rebuild trust,” Ali Zia was quoted as saying. “Both have already done a lot to do that.”

He indicated that court cases related to the attacks in Jaranwala are expected to start in early 2024.

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.