As Christians across the country celebrate the festive occasion of Christmas on Friday, the president, prime minister and other government officials extended their felicitations and warmest wishes to members of the community.
According to Radio Pakistan, special ceremonies are being held in churches across the country in which prayers will also be held for the solidarity and prosperity of Pakistan.
This time celebrations have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 9,000 lives in the country so far. On Thursday, Pakistan reported the highest number of deaths during the second wave of Covid-19, and the second highest since the beginning of the pandemic, as 111 people died in the country.
In an effort to discourage the spread of the virus, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) earlier this week issued guidelines for Christmas events. Terming events related to Christmas a major challenge, the NCOC announced guidelines to mitigate person-to-person spread of the virus.
It asked people to undertake minimal necessary travel during the holidays.
“Social visits during the holidays and family get-togethers should be avoided. Christmas shopping should only be restricted to minimal essentials and crowding in markets is not advisable. The traditional gift exchange and large-scale home gatherings are likely to increase transmission so they should also be avoided,” it said.
The NCOC also advised to limit the duration of events and regularly disinfect Christmas trees and decorations in public places. Churches were also asked to arrange thermal screening of people at entry gates while preachers were advised to deliver sermons on the virus and preventive measures.
Messages pour in
In his message to the Christian community, Prime Minister Imran Khan extended his “heartiest felicitations” to Christian brethren in Pakistan and all over the world.
“Today, millions of Christians all around the world and in Pakistan celebrate the birth of Prophet Jesus who was sent to this world as a symbol of peace, brotherhood and respect for humanity.
“This day reminds us of the values that Prophet Jesus observed in his own life. He not only healed humanity but preached the divine values of tolerance, love and compassion,” he said in a statement shared by the Prime Minister Office.
“Christmas is an occasion to reflect on the message of Prophet Jesus, the eternal message of love, peace, tolerance and compassion for humanity,” he said, adding that the government was dedicated to preserving the sanctity of existence and equality of opportunities enjoyed by all Pakistanis.
“I am immensely happy to note that minorities in Pakistan are actively contributing to the development and prosperity of the country without any hindrance including [in] politics, social services, military, education, health and many other spheres.
“This reflects the communal harmony and profound cohesion between all faiths practiced across the length and breadth of the country. This is the spirit that binds us together as one family to celebrate our blessings and the values we hold dear,” he said.
“On this happy day, I wish to acknowledge the diverse and productive role being played by all minorities living in Pakistan, particularly the Christian community for the socio-economic development of the country,” he said.
President Arif Alvi said the government’s policies were aimed at creating harmony and cohesion between people of all faiths. “The government will try its utmost to uphold the principles of equality and justice for all communities residing in Pakistan,” he said.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar urged those celebrating to be “responsible in how you celebrate and take the right precautions for yourself and your loved ones”.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari eulogised the role of Christians and other minority communities in the development of the country and assured them that their rights as equal citizens of Pakistan, as enshrined in the Constitution, will always be protected.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood and SAPM Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari also wished all those celebrating a merry Christmas.
Senator Sherry Rehman said: “May 2021 be a better year for all of us every where.”
Former Sindh minister Sharjeel Memon expressed the hope that “this Christmas you have all the blessings which you deserve”. “Praying for your happiness , success and safety.”