12/28/2004, 00.00
PAKISTAN – CHRISTMAS
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Christmas, a holiday that brings Christians and Muslims closer together

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Christmas should be "a day of peace, forgiveness, tolerance and freedom for everyone" to minimize the "gap between Christians and Muslims and bring peace to our world because it is the need of time", this according to Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Ludhianvi, principal of Jamia Millia Islamia in Faisalabad.

"We believe that Jesus is the true prophet of Allah and we also believe in His miracles," Maulana said.

"Since Christmas is an occasion of happiness," he added, "we should forgive and try to understand each other, and create an atmosphere of harmony and brotherhood."

Christians celebrated Christmas in several Pakistani cities. Midnight mass was held in St Joseph's Cathedral in Rawalpindi and Christ's Church in Islamabad.

Christmas rites were also performed in other urban centres such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad and Sialkot where churches were lighted for the holiday.

Liturgical celebrations gave the faithful a chance to pray for the country's prosperity and solidarity as well as peace in the world.

Unlike previous years, this year no act of violence was perpetrated against the Christian minority during Christmas.

On the evening of December 25, 2002, armed men had burst into a Presbyterian church in Punjab province killing three girls and wounding some 70 faithful gathered for Christmas prayers.

At a reception for a Christian delegation during which he cut a Christmas cake, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz renewed his commitment to provide a minimum of services to all Pakistanis in both big cities and small towns.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim nation. Its population stands at 143 million, 96.1 per cent Muslim. Christians represent 2.5 per cent of the total or about 3.8 million; Catholics are just under 1.3 million. (QF) 

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