Thousands of people thronged central Lahore last weekend for a traditional Christmas parade, the first one in a decade after security fears brought a halt to the event.
The organisers waved a large Pakistani flag from a float that featured nativity characters and a choir singing carols.
Noman Saeed, a bakery salesman, recorded the parade on his mobile phone with his friends.
“Everybody has his own way of celebrating holy feasts. There is no need to stop religious minorities. Christmas also helps our businesses, as demand for special cakes increases in this season,” Saeed said.
The hour-long parade was organised by the Junior Church Department of Raiwind Diocese, which brought together Sunday school teachers, students and parents from 25 Protestant Churches. Church of Pakistan Bishop, Samuel Azariah, of Raiwind Diocese led the parade, along with other four pastors.
“We waited till the last day but there were only verbal assurances for the public parade. Only three traffic wardens helped us. Still, we thank the administration for supporting us in continuing a tradition that had come to a halt due to terrorism. However, the security given to churches on Sunday has loopholes,” Bishop Azariah said.
“We hope the parade will give a spiritual boost to local Christians. But we do not depend on government security for such events,” he said. “The event is our message to the whole nation that Christians also exist; we also have religious freedom. Our persecution will end.”
Churches around the country hold Christmas fairs and run programmes for children and the needy around Christmas, but most of these events are held within church premises. Security has been tightened around more than 480 churches in the city, after last year’s twin suicide bombings of churches in Youhanabad, the largest Christian settlement within Punjab.
- Give thanks for the Christmas parade in Lahore, and for the courage of Christians in going ahead with it, despite ongoing security concerns.
- Pray for all those who watched the parade, for seeds of the truth of Christmas to be planted and to grow in their hearts.
- Pray for the continued safety of churches in Pakistan, and a growing awareness and acceptance of the importance of Christianity in this country.
- Pray for Pakistani believers who are often persecuted. Pray for courage and encouragement as they meet together to celebrate over this Christmas season.
Source: http://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news, http://www.persecution.org/2016