In March 2013, an angry mob of more than three thousand people stormed Joseph Colony – a Lahore locality with an overwhelmingly Christian population – and set more than 100 homes on fire.
Lahore police stood by as the inflamed crowd torched the humble homes, admittedly avoiding clashes. Despite the outrage the incident sparked, the government took little real action. Twenty-one months later, the ghosts of Joseph Colony still haunt the Christians living in Pakistan.
A number of individuals have since sprung into action to try to make up for the senseless violence, and, in however small measures, undo the tragic wrong.
For the second year in a row, an anonymous donor managed the distribution of Christmas gifts to children of the colony's Christian community. Distributing cricket bats, badminton rackets and colouring books among children is certainly no compensation for what happened in March last year, but it did manage to spread some smiles on the faces of the kids.
To celebrate your biggest festival in a decidedly hostile environment — no child deserves that. And it should not have been this way. We should have put an end to the madness once and for all. We should have undone every single thing that led to that situation to ensure it didn't occur again.
But we didn't. And it did occur, again.
And now it seems that all our children stand terrified in the midst of a menace they had nothing to do with.
As I captured the endearing smiles of these children, I was overwhelmed with conflicting feelings: pure joy and terrible guilt.
The guilt will stay, but for a few, dear moments, let us get into the Christmas spirit and partake in the simple joys of these children.
All photos are by the author
Ammar Shareef is a photographer based in Lahore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org