Celebrating Christmas In Pakistan With A Special Peace Train. By Saadia Haq
23 December 2016 - it’s the time for Christmas carols, Santa Claus and lots of loving and giving among all brethren. For the 2.5 million Pakistani Christians the most joyous occasion is nearing and their preparations are in full swing for the upcoming Christmas festival.
This year however, the State has taken a very encouraging step for making Christian minorities by launching a special peace train that is already on the national binaries passing different parts of the country to reach Karachi on 31 December 2016.
The special Christmas peace train is a collaborative project of The Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation and Human Rights Division. It is a symbolic initiative to promote and spread the message of love, peace and religious harmony in the overwhelmingly Muslim majority nation marred by intolerance.
The establishment is stepping up efforts and aiming towards changing mind-sets for a more tolerant approach towards faith based communities that face persecution and marginalization.
This train consists of three galleries and two floats which reflects religious harmony and love with Pakistan. It is beautifully adorned with Christmas lights and mock snowmen, and with carriages that have portraits and tributes to notable Christian Pakistanis of the motherland.
This is a very first initiative of its kind in the sub-continent for acknowledging the sacrifices of Christian community in Pakistan. It is hoped that this endeavour will be fruitful to minimize the vast distances between Muslims and Christian communities of our country.
Most Muslims are hardly aware of any information about the significance of Christmas and its importance for Christians. So sending out a very public message with the Christmas train can draw interest from Muslim communities.
Tackling religious intolerance in Pakistan is challenging but not impossible; the Christmas train can be a source of interfaith harmony and will reflect the strong bonds of Muslims and Christian communities.
Speaking at the launch occasion, in Islamabad, Father Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' social communications commission, welcomed the first Christmas train in Pakistan. He said, that "It is a unique initiative to boost the campaign for harmony and peace. We only had such trains on Eid and other special occasions in the past. It is a powerful message to extremists who do not tolerate followers of other religions. The government should think of more ways to endorse religious harmony."
There is no denying the role and struggle of the Christian community in the development of Pakistan. Our homeland’s flag is incomplete without our minorities. As a nation, we are the brink to right the many wrongs because Pakistan cannot go ahead without religious harmony.
The community had been attacked this year during Easter Sunday when Pakistan Taliban claimed an attack which they said was targeting Christians. For this Christmas, let’s unite and hold hands of each other regardless of our faiths to work together in small and big ways for bringing peace and stability in our homeland.
Last but not least, a very blessed and merry Christmas to all the Pakistani Christians!