KARACHI – Reeling from bitter memories of deadly Peshawar Church blast that killed 84 and injured over 100 in September last, Christian minority in Pakistan is going to celebrate a “somber” Christmas this year.
“I lost my brother, and two (female) cousins in that blast whose blood-soaked bodies are still haunting my memories,” Aneela Masih, who works as a nurse at a private hospital in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) province, told OnIslam.net.
The deadly incident occurred on September 22 when hundreds of Christians were attending Sunday mass at Peshawar’s All Saints Church, one of the oldest churches in Muslim Pakistan.
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the premises of the church killing over 80 persons.
The security agencies pointed finger at outlawed Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan for the deadliest attacks on minorities in Pakistan. Taliban, however, categorically denied the charge.
Covering her head with a black Dupatta (sheet), and trying to fight back her tears which were about to roll down her cheeks, Aneela says she hasn’t made up her mind to celebrate Christmas this year.
“I am still unable to overcome the horrible memories of that day. It seemed if I was seeing the doomsday. The stench of death and blood was spread everywhere,” an emotional Aneela recalled.
She too had received injuries in her back and legs, and remained hospitalized for over a week.
“I fully understand that Xmas is the name of joy and celebration,” she said.
“But when I think of new clothes, bangles and other stuff, the bodies of my brother and sisters appear in front of my eyes,” said Aneela, who finally burst into tears.
Saraah Benjamin, who teaches English at a private school in Peshawar too does not have any big plans for Christmas this year, however she wants to use the opportunity to get rid of the trauma.
“The entire community is still in pain and fear. What happened on that day (September 22) was unforgettably horrible. It seemed if it had happened last week,” Saarah who although was not present at the Sunday mass, she rushed to the hospital after the incident to identify and help her relatives, told OnIslam.net.
“We will certainly buy new clothes, shoes, and bangles for children as we do not want them to stay in grip of fear any more. We want them to come out of the trauma, and Xmas will be a good opportunity for that,” she said.
Happy with Muslim Friends
Despite a pall of bitter memories of September, the Christian community appears to be happy and proud by their Muslim neighbors and friends.
“They (Muslim friends and neighbors) have always stood behind us in testing times, whether it’s Church bomb blast or attack on community by hardliners,” Saarah, the teacher, said.
She observes that `Eid and Christmas are the festivals that connect Muslim and Christian population of Pakistan.
“It was my Muslim neighbor who not went to the hospital with me, but also supported me financially at that time of need,” she recalled.
“I see on the one hand, those misguided people who want to kill us to settle the score with US or the West, but on the other hand , I see a majority of kind and loving people who not merely consider us their brothers and sisters, but always come forward to support us-morally and financially-,” she maintained.
Younas Sohan Advocate, the head of the ahl-e-Kitab (holders of Holy Book) wing of Jamat-e-Islami, the country’s one of the two mainstream religious parties agrees with Saarah.
“Religious parties, and people are more helpful to us,” Younas, a Christian himself told OnIslam.net.
“Every year, hundreds of poor Christian families are provided with ration, clothes, and other gifts by Jamat-e-Islami enabling them to celebrate the Xmas,” he said.
This year too, he said, his party was going to distribute ration, and Xmas gifts to over 200 poor Christian families, in Karachi only.
“I do not have the figures of other cities, but certainly Christians there too are going to get the same treatment,” he added.
Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), the relief wing of Jamat-ud-Dawa’h also distributes Xmas gifts among Christians across the country.
Besides Xmas, the FIF provides income support to poor Christians and Hindus on monthly basis.
Christians are the largest minority in this South Asian nuclear Muslim state who make up 3 per cent of total 180 million population.
A majority of Christians inhabit in northeastern Punjab province, the country’s most populous and richest province. They are mainly involved in teaching, nursing, and sanitation businesses.
Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the NobleQur’an, Jesus is called “Isa”. He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
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