With churches under tight protection, Christmas celebrations held safely in Pakistan
The government deployed soldiers, sharpshooters and policemen to prevent terrorist attacks like the one against Quetta’s Methodist church just over a week ago. The Chief of Army Staff took part in a celebration and praised Christians’ contribution to the country.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Christmas celebrations went off without a hitch this year. Pakistani Christians marked the birth of Jesus amid decorations and lights, protected by armed soldiers deployed around churches.
After the attack on 17 December against Quetta’s Methodist Church, Pakistani authorities beefed up security around all Christian places of worship to prevent other terrorist attacks and allow Christian celebrations to go ahead without any problems.
In Pakistan, Christians represent less than 2 per cent of the mostly Muslim population (220 million). They are often victims of discrimination and violence by Islamic radicals.
Oppression can take various forms, ranging from false accusations of blasphemy to discrimination in the workplace. In fact, the humblest and most degrading jobs like street cleaning and rubbish collection tend to be reserved for them.
This year, thanks to measures taken by the authorities, Christians were able to enjoy actively the holiday in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta.
Top government officials also joined in the festivity. Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi sent their best wishes.
Surprisingly, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa attended Christmas celebrations at Christ Church in the heart of the garrison city of Rawalpindi. This is a truly exceptional for it is rare for a top general to attend a non-Muslim religious event.
In a press note issued by the Pakistan army on Monday, General Bajwa acknowledged the contribution Christians made not only to the creation of Pakistan but also to its progress.