Santa Claus doesn’t visit Pakistan?
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in the memory of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the country, not for the celebrations of Christmas. Pakistan has a population over 180 million people and there are around 20 millions Christians. Although there is no census in the country for many years but this is estimated figure given by different Christian organization and churches around. Most of Christians live in are quite poor. At Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, a big procession takes place like in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi. Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas. In many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church. But this trend is gradually fading now due to the wave of terrorism in the country for the last decade.
Christmas is not being celebrated in Pakistan like, in EU or other Christian countries. Especially, when there is Pakistan Muslim League PML-N (a political party) come in power. Most of the Pakistani Christians believe that PML-N mind set is pro-Taliban and they hardly bear Pakistani Christians. And this year they proved it, government didn’t announced any public holiday for Christians. There remained gas and electricity load shedding schedule in its routine. It means Christian of the country enjoyed Christmas with gas and electricity. On the other hand, special announcement is being made by the government and special packages on Eid ul Fiter and Eid ul Uzha (Muslim’s festivals) announced usually. The authorities gave another indication of being second class citizen and showed their discriminatory attitude towards Christians of the country.
Anyway, in the big Christians areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes. Churches are packed for midnight or vigil mass services. After the vigil-mass, in some places there are fireworks which start Christmas celebrations. People wear their best and colorful clothes. Some people dance, exchange gifts and enjoy the special night. But this Christmas is embraced in certain parts of Pakistani society, especially among the wealthy and educated. Paradoxically, the country is also seeing an uptick in violence against Christians as some use the country’s controversial “Blasphemy law” to marginalize and oppress their non-Muslim countrymen.
Not everyone is deprived of an opulent holiday feast when it comes to Christmas dinner in Pakistan. The menu reads as if an especially corpulent Santa had providing dinner. Brie and cranberry parcels, roast turkey, gravy, beef, stuffing and mushroom roulade. Spiced pumpkin cheesecake and “Christmas Pie Sundae” complete with orange, almond and whisky sauce cap off dinner for well connected diplomats and privileged society.
This privileged society simply forget their Christian brothers, where is no decorations, no best and colorful clothes. The stench from overflowing half-frozen sewers permeates the small neighborhood. As a nation, we wear our emotions on our sleeve, given to sudden declarations that fizzle out like the ocean surf. Our tragedies forgotten before the wounds have sealed, we continue desensitized.