12/22/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistani government to celebrate Christmas

by Qaiser Felix
Prime Minister Gilani announces reforms in favour of minorities’ development, identity and political representation. Catholic leader Peter Jacob hopes the government will keep its promises “because in past there were also many announcements but they were not implemented.”
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Christians are not alone in celebrating Christmas in Pakistan this year. In the days before 25 December religious communities and organisations are preparing many public events, but others are doing the same. Indeed some political parties and public institutions are organising something to celebrate the festivity.

Pakistan’s Minorities Ministry organised Christmas celebrations at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) in nation’s capital, hosted by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani

In wishing Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all Pakistani Christians, Mr Gilani said that the country had a moral obligation to safeguard and promote a culture of peace and harmony.

In reiterating his government’s commitment to the economic development of minorities and the preservation of their religious identity, language and tradition, the prime minister announced that the government would reserve 5 per cent of jobs in the federal public service for minorities. “It is our duty to our faith in the power of the people and in the prosperity of minorities,” the premier said.

Mr Gilani also said that the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) intends to increase the number of seats to represent minorities in national and provincial assemblies, and pave the way for them to be represented in the senate, the real decision-making body of the country.

Finally he stressed his intention to celebrate with conviction and enthusiasm Minorities Day next 11 August, the day when the nation remembers the first speech by  the country’s founder, Quaid-e-Azam Mahomed Ali Jinnah, father of modern Pakistan,  to the Constituent Assembly.

Speaking about Mr Gilani’s statement, Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), said that popular participation in Christmas celebrations marks a desire for reconciliation and this despite the difficult situation the country is going through.

Tensions with India and the shadow cast by terrorism have not in fact prevented people at all levels and from all walks of life from taking part in Christmas celebrations.

Communities from Pakistan’s many confessions are especially involved in organising many activities and celebrations (pictured: the lights of Saint Thomas Anglican Church in Islamabad), and this despite the fact that the country’s Christians represent only 2.5 per cent of the predominantly Muslim population of 170 million.

For Jacob the fact that political parties and government institutions have promoted events for such an occasion is a very positive sign. It is also quite significant that a Christmas dinner is scheduled at the President’s Residence.

It is hoped that other initiatives will be taken in favour of the hundreds of thousands of mostly poor Christians to alleviate their suffering and meet their needs.

The NCJP secretary also said that as far as Gilani’s announcement is concerned the NCJP is hoping that the promises made will be kept “because in past there were also many announcements but they were not implemented.”

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