(Clockwise from top) Priests lead the Christmas Mass at Holy Family Church in Rawalpindi, Christian devotees attend a prayer service in a katchi abadi in Islamabad’s G-7 sector while children enjoy on a trampoline as they celebrate the festival on Saturday. — Photos by APP & Tanveer Shahzad
(Clockwise from top) Priests lead the Christmas Mass at Holy Family Church in Rawalpindi, Christian devotees attend a prayer service in a katchi abadi in Islamabad’s G-7 sector while children enjoy on a trampoline as they celebrate the festival on Saturday. — Photos by APP & Tanveer Shahzad

RAWALPINDI: Christmas was celebrated in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad amid tight security.

The churches were decorated with colourful lights to give the occasion a touch of joyousness. All the churches organised midnight services where prayers were offered followed by morning services.

Last year, no major gathering was held in the churches due to Covid-19.

Though this year threat of omicron variant loomed large, the church administrations made special arrangements to follow the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“We could not arrange a big gathering last year but thank God have come back to the church to celebrate Christmas this year. We also arranged a party at home where my brothers and sisters and children enjoyed the occasion,” said George Masih, a resident of a locality near Holy Family Hospital, Rawalpindi.

The biggest gathering was held at St Joseph’s Cathedral. Big congregations were also held in other churches where religious prayers were offered. The community members prayed for the prevalence of peace and establishment of brotherhood and fraternity in the world.

Christmas trees and cribs were decorated in the houses of the Christian community. Even the Christian community members living in slums celebrated the event with religious zeal.

Special security arrangements were made in and around the churches so the community performed their religious rituals without any hurdles.

Regional Police Officer (RPO) Ashfaq Ahmad Khan along with City Police Officer (CPO) Sajid Kayani visited Christ Church and St Paul’s Church on the Mall to express solidarity with the community.

Pastors Nadeem Kamran and Samuel Titus welcomed them.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali also visited various churches in Lal Kurti and Raja Bazaar. In addition to overseeing security arrangements, he also cut Christmas cakes with the community members.

The deputy commissioner said like all over Pakistan the Christian community in Rawalpindi was celebrating its religious festival with complete freedom and were provided full security. He said all minorities in Pakistan celebrated their religious festivals and rituals with complete freedom.

Meanwhile, local leaders of the PPP, PML-N, JI and the PTI visited churches and residential areas of the community and congratulated the community members.

Taxila

Christmas cake cutting ceremonies were held in Taxila and Wah cantonment boards. Sweets, gifts and cash prizes were distributed among the Christian employees of the civic bodies.

In Taxila, the cake-cutting ceremony was performed by Vice President Cantonment Board Ghulam Dastagir Butt and others.

Speakers on the occasion acknowledged the role of the Christian community in contributing to Pakistan’s progress.

They said Islam taught the lesson of peace, friendship and promoted interfaith harmony which was the need of the hour.

Social figure Syed Zaheer Shah praised the role of the Christian community in education and health sectors.

Separately, the Wah Cantonment Board organised a cake-cutting ceremony to celebrate the event with wardens and sanitation workers.

Wah Cantonment Board President Brigadier Ameen Khan and Cantonment Executive Officer Rana Kashif cut the cake.

Speaking on the occasion, Brig Khan said the Christian community was playing its role in national security and development in a befitting manner and enjoyed equal rights like other citizens.

A ceremony was also held at the district police office in Attock. A large number of Christian employees of the police attended the ceremony.

Speaking on the occasion, District Police Officer (DPO) Rana Shoaib Mehmood congratulated the Christian community. He said the community was an important part of society and Christians were extending significant services in the sectors of education, health and other fields of life.

Meanwhile, police made elaborate security arrangements for churches by deploying personnel.

APP adds: A number of shopping malls and hotels in the capital placed decked Christmas trees to attract visitors, especially children.

The decorated Christmas tree placed at D-Chowk by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) attracted a number of visitors.

The Christmas tree is usually decked with different ornaments, including baubles, small bells painted gold or silver, stars of different shapes and sizes, pine cones, apples, candies, tinsel and balloons made from glass, metal, wood and ceramic.

Moreover, the capital police made elaborate security arrangements on the eve of Christmas and special deployment was made outside churches and public places.

According to police sources, more than 1,200 policemen were deployed around churches and foolproof security arrangements were made, including checking people outside churches.

Stalls were also set up outside slums where a majority of Christian community resides. The stall owners displayed a variety of decorative ornaments as well as the dress of Santa Claus which was the source of attraction for youngsters and children.

Different brands and eateries in the city offered discounts to attract customers.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2021

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