By Dr. Saeed Ahmad Ali
LAHORE, Dec 23 (APP):Traditionally, Christmas festivals in Pakistan is an occasion of jubilation and celebrations, a holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is symbolized with a shopping spree in markets as Christian community purchases new clothes, shoes and gifts to celebrate their main festival of the year.
Christians around the world have started the festivity of Christmas day celebrations amid the prevailing situation of coronavirus, with prayer services in the churches of the country.
The festivities include distributing gifts among parents, children while attending mass and singing hymns and prayers.
Residential colonies and localities in Lahore such as Youhanabad, which is the largest majority area of Christians in the city have been decorated beautifully.
Some small religious events being celebrated are a part of the festivities that would lead to Christmas Day. Youth, children, choir groups and families have started preparing themselves for that day in a befitting manner.
Other Christians’ localities across the province have also been decorated with twinkling lights and stars and baubles including bells, pine, apples, cones, apples, tinsel and balloons at streets, bedecked trees, houses and churches, ahead of the main event.
Major churches in Lahore which have been decorated beautifully included Sacred Heart Cathedral, Mall Road, St. Andrew’s Church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. Anthony’s Church, Mall Road, St. Joseph’s Church, St. Mary’s Church, St. Joseph’s Church, St. Mary’s Church, Samaritan’s Fellowship Church.
Whereas, decorated wreaths have also been hung outside the main shopping malls and stores buzzing with last-minute shopping on the eve of Christmas festivity.
Bishop of Lahore Irfan Jamil told APP that all the religions around the world had taught a message of love and peace irrespective of race and colour.
He said role of Christians was remarkable in the making of Pakistan and now they had been working shoulder to shoulder for the prosperity and development of the country.
Members of the Christian community would attend special services at illuminated churches where prayers would also be offered for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan, he said.
To a query he said Christians also took an active part and sacrificed lives during the wars of 1965 and 1971, adding, the white color in the national flag belonged to the minorities.
Manzoor Ahmed Alvi, a noted professor of Sociology told APP that amid the pandemic, it was a welcoming sign that people who had been confined to their homes since the spread of the pandemic, now were enjoying religious festivity and limited gatherings, as social isolation was very challenging.
It is very important to understand that amid COVID-19, almost everyone around the world is feeling ‘emotional-burden’ of a pandemic crisis, Alvi says.
To any individual, this is the true and exact situation of what he feels like amid pandemic restrictions, he elaborated. It is awful and even people with tremendous resiliency while staying at their homes amid the pandemic feel out of sorts.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement issued here on Friday warned nations across the globe that Christmas celebrations might be turned to tears if masses were failed to keep up their fight against COVID-19, by not adopting proper Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) during the Xmas celebrations.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief, while advising the people said the number of deaths amid novel coronavirus was surging, and urged people to be careful in planning their events.
“Though the festive event is a time to enjoy, relax and celebrate but, the celebration can very quickly turn to loss or sadness if we fail to adopt the right safeguards and precautions,” he warned.
Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Maulana Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) and president of Muttahida Ulema Board told APP that religious minorities were the valuable citizens of this country and had full protection of their rights.
He said Christians had a historical connection to this land and under the constitution as well as other laws of the country, their rights and interests were secured, adding, they were completely free to follow their cultural and religious affairs without any hindrance or influence.
It is worth mentioning here that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had issued a guideline plan for the upcoming Christmas events to prevent the surge and spread of the deadly virus.
Terming festivity events related to Christmas as a major challenge, the NCOC has announced SOPs and precautions to mitigate person-to-person spread of the virus.
NCOC has advised people to limit the duration of events, while regularly disinfecting Christmas trees and other decorations at public places.
Dr. Tehseen Riaz of Jinnah hospital told APP that Christmas events could enhance and amplify the transmission of coronavirus, resulting in the country’s disruption to response capacity, if proper measures were not adopted.
The pandemic in its second wave around the globe was in full rage, and the safest thing that everyone should do during this Christmas’ holiday is to stay home, he added.
There should be very limited in-person contacts during the festivity, both in preparations and celebrations, he warned.