When it comes to the celebrations of Christmas, there is so much to be seen everywhere in the world in terms of decorations, shopping, food and much more.
With the passage of time, the Christmas has become a global festival irrespective of the fact that the basis of this festival is the cornerstone of Christianity.
The celebration of Christmas in Pakistan, which is predominantly a Muslim country, has also taken a different turn during the past few years. Few years back, one could hardly imagine the Christmas time besides the Christians themselves who would decorate their homes, churches, bake cakes and go for shopping during this time of the season. Although, it is the matter of money to purchase different items.
However, the Christians of Pakistan always try to celebrate the Christmas in their best available resources because the love for Jesus, which is beyond any explanation for them. For the past few years, the Christmas decorations have also been put up in markets and public places by Muslims to show that the Christmas season is around. It's all about the happiness that this season has to offer.
This year also, I was looking at different pictures of some known places in Pakistan shimmering with the Christmas decoration and the churches splendidly decorated. However,my mind was struck by the memories and the agony of the suicide blasts occurred in the church of Peshawar, Pakistan in September 2013. The blasts in All Saints Church, Peshawar left scores dead and hundreds wounded. These blasts have snatched everything from some people and left them alone or with just another member of the family, while the whole rest of the family was swallowed.
Amidst my view of the Christmas pictures from Pakistan, I just started to wonder what about the Christmas for the survivors of the blasts who have lost their dear and near ones in this man-caused death. How do they feel when they will offer prayers on the Christmas day without their family members who were with them during the last Christmas? How much planning they might have done for the next Christmas with their family?
The birth of Jesus Christ for the believers itself is the message of hope, peace and love. Nonetheless, as a human being there are some feelings and emotions that are extremely difficult to side away with and one of them is to overcome the loss of dear ones and then start living life as it was before. It requires a lot of time and strength to heal this wound. For all those who lost their lives in the blasts were never aware of their next destination and didn't know that their prayers, songs and goodbyes to their friends and time with their family few moments ago were for the last time.
"What is the Christmas for those who have lost all their family members," said Junaid Saqib who has lost his eleven relatives. He further told me that it was just in one day that he buried eleven bodies of his loved ones. Ostensibly, he is one of many Christians in Peshawar who never thought this would happen one day that they had to lay to rest their close relatives and family members.
The tears filled my eyes and I remained perturbed until after I finished my talk with Junaid, who was sharing the memories of that carnage.
Every year since the death of my father until the time I am alive, I always miss him during this time of the year more, as every Christmas refreshes his memories. Then I think, if I am going through such a pain then what about the agony of my those brothers, sisters and elders who have lost everyone. They didn't die from cardiac arrest or natural death but the death they never even thought of during their life-time.
Some of the wounded in the blasts are still trying to recover and those who already have, are back to the normal chores of life. But, there are some wounds which can't be healed. The cries and pain that they have seen will always remain with them.
Besides all the sufferings, the level of optimism and the light of hope I could find in this one message that I got in a response to my question to Tariq Aziz who is looking after his wounded sister, another victim of the blast:
"Dear Lubna Thomas, I have lost many member of my family my bro in law William Ghulam who was Principal of Govt.High School, nephew Noel William Student of Medical College Final Year, niece Meerab William Student Fsc Died in that Bomb Blast and my Sister is injured and under treatment. Please Pray for her. We are trying to celebrate Christmas, so that our Enemy did not suppose that we are afraid of him. So, Pray for us that GOD may strengthen us in our Faith".
Even though the Christians in Pakistan have to worship with the security guards positioned outside the churches, I never saw any Christian missing the church just because one day they might be targeted by someone. It is to mention here that the security outside the churches beef up during Christmas and Easter, but mostly around Christmas more as all the churches have different programmes run throughout the season. The security threats and concerns all together can't ever deter the Christians of Pakistan to celebrate Christmas with zeal. Rather, I would say, the churches in Pakistan have more Christmas programmes than the churches of the US as I am celebrating my second Christmas here.
I know that the Christians of Pakistan whether they are in their country or abroad remember these martyrs of Peshawar during this festive season as the bond of love and affection among us can never be broken or shattered by any such attacks.
The hope in the message of Tariq Aziz I mentioned above is the voice of many Christians in Pakistan who no matter what happens will adhere to their faith and keep sending the message to their enemies that the Saviour is bigger than the killer.