As December approaches, crazy sales, decorations and preparations flood countries across the world. Hot chocolate, family dinners and wish list presents are the top priorities of everyone.
However, it’s not like that in Pakistan. In fact, this year the whole of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) won’t be celebrating Christmas as freely as they had hoped. Instead of celebrating the most holy and festive occasion of the year for them, they will be mourning the tragic massacre of innocent school-going children in Peshawar.
This time, our Christian brothers and sisters have volunteered to tone down Christmas celebrations. However, if you think about it, Christmas has never really been a big deal in Pakistan.
To show solidarity, Pakistani Christians decided not to let the attackers have the last word. On Sunday, December 21, 2014, the Christian population of Karachi dressed up in Santa Claus costumes and held a Christmas peace rally in Karachi. Children were seen singing Christmas carols, going from one area of the city to another.
Previously, the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah has always over-powered the entire feel of this holiday. The media is more patriotic than festive. Channels do shows in tribute to the Quaid and Christmas celebrations across the country are shown as highlights on the side-lines. We give a public holiday for Jinnah’s birth and not for Christmas. Even though some might argue that it’s a holiday nonetheless, but my argument is that it is the intention that matters. You have completely ignored the festival of a large religious community in your country and have never addressed it in your national itinerary.
In light of the Peshawar incident, we Pakistanis have come together; we are a united force now – or so it seems. Pakistan has understood the issue of terrorism very comprehensively and has chosen to address it as a united force rather than as provincial, political, social or religious factions with their own thoughts and opinions.
But if we are as united as we claim to be, will we welcome the Christmas spirit together with our Christian community? Will we stand by the Christian community and give them the security they deserve but never got? Will we fight for their right to life like they did for ours?
Our Christian community came through for us in our time of need, but have we ever done the same for them? Did we cancel our own Eid festivities when Christians were killed in cold blood in the very same city last year?
A disgusting attack on our people shocked not only us but the entire world to the core; it left families destroyed, futures and dreams crushed, it took place on March 9, 2013 in Joseph Colony in Lahore.
A disgusting attack on our people shocked not only us but the entire world to the core; it left families destroyed, futures and dreams crushed, it took place on September 22, 2013 on a Church in Peshawar.
A disgusting attack on our people shocked not only us but the entire world to the core; it left families destroyed, futures and dreams crushed, it took place on November 4, 2014 in Kot Radha Kishan near Lahore.
A disgusting attack on our people shocked not only us but the entire world to the core; it left families destroyed, futures and dreams crushed, it took place on December 16, 2014 on a school in Peshawar.
The point that I’m trying to make here is that it is only when tragedy strikes that Pakistan comes together to put up a united front. On any other ordinary day, we ignore our religious minorities. Maybe after 67 years of existence, since it is never too late, we should make a pledge with ourselves. A pledge more in line with Jinnah’s ideology, remember his words,
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
Keep them in mind.
This December 25, 2014, instead of celebrating just his birth, let’s celebrate his principles. Let’s honour his promise to the minorities and celebrate a festival important to them just like Eid is to us. And if we promise to come together as a nation, for better or for worse, and we agree on giving space to each individual to think and feel free to do what he or she likes, Pakistan will wake up to a brighter morning. We need to respect our minorities and become a part of them, just like they immerse within us. We need to realise, understand and embrace the fact that we are all one.
Had it been 150 Christians or Hindus, we would have done what we did before; condemned the incident and then carried on with our lives. Let’s promise ourselves not to do that again. With the Peshawar school attack, we stopped our lives and felt the pain, loss and anguish collectively. Let’s not forget to be human when the attack takes place on a religious minority. In order to fight these forces of darkness and terror, we need to continue this unanimity and stick together as a nation, regardless of the faith of the deceased in such tragedies.
This terrorist attack was an attack on our hearts. We will stick together and we will not forget the 150 lives. But we will also not forget those killed in the Peshawar church attack. We will also not forget those killed in Joseph colony. And we will not forget Shama and Shahzad. Instead, we will celebrate those lives by becoming a stronger nation, a nation that celebrates its minorities’; a nation that rejects religious persecution of any kinds. The Peshawar attack was Pakistan’s calling. It was our calling to get our act together. It was a warning – a last chance at unity. And we are going to take it. We are going to grasp it and never let it go again.
With overdue apologies to our minorities, let us promise to cherish the colours of Holi, eat turkey on Thanksgiving, light up Pakistan on Hanukkah, bask in the spirit of Christmas, give each other three hugs on the occasion of Eid and, most importantly, coexist as a people of one nation.
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