Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistani Catholics are starting Holy Week and Easter celebrations with deep devotion, willing to run any risk to take part in church services, Fr Nadeem John Shakir told AsiaNews. Even if this is the case, for the executive secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, the faithful are living in an atmosphere of fear.
Christians might have to make do with a silent Easter as they did last December for Christmas. On that occasion, churches kept a low profile; outside, there were no lights or decorations to mark the season out of fearing for attacks from Muslim extremists. For Fr Nadeem, this time too is one of silence. So far, there has been no incident or attack, but dangers remain.
Lent was a time of fear and no one was safe, Fr Nadeem said; however, the faithful should attend Holy Week services in great numbers because their faith is "unshakable". Security must be guaranteed, but the deployment of government forces is not enough. Christians must take on that responsibility first hand.
As religious extremism grows in Pakistan, non-Muslims are increasingly victims of discrimination and persecution. This is compounded by a global crisis made worse by bombings, power shortages, rising prices and unemployment. Such problems are encouraging extremists to fight the central government. People feel insecure even in their homes.
Despite the dangers and uncertainty, Fr Nadeem wants to send a message of hope to Christians who are preparing to celebrate Easter. Even media like television are going to cover events. Although people are scared and worried, they will not let fear defeat them.
Lastly, Fr Nadeem made an appeal to the media and to Western Christians, asking them "to pray for Pakistani Christians", to talk about their situation because their voice and media support are vital for their survival.