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Apr 25, 2016

Security is Issue for Pakistani Christians

In the Episcopal Church, we process each Palm Sunday with joy and delight, never fearing for our lives. We gather on Easter without much concern for our safety or that of our fellow parishioners, but similar celebrations in other parts of the world don’t always have that same luxury. The century-old traditional precession at Easter took place through ancient walled city of Peshawar, despite a high security threat and the Diocese expressed its gratitude for protection provided by the provincial government.


Anglicans, along with the faithful from other denominations, gathered at dawn at All Saints’ Church, Peshawar, and, led by the Rev. Rasheed Nazir and Bishop Humphrey S. Peters, prayed for security and protection before processing through the streets and bazaars. All along the way, others joined in, as thousands of people chanted “Alleluia, Christ is risen.” Bible passages were read aloud on corners and from the middle of the roads, hymns were sung as the crowd presented an unbending witness of a living church in this Islamic state. Following the procession, participants celebrated a sun rise worship service.


The church also organized a fair with food and games, the first since many were killed and injured in twin blasts on September 22, 2013, set by Islamic fundamentalists. “The hearts of the affected families and the All Saints’ community are still hurt and in pain,” said a spokesperson from the Diocese of Peshawar. “An air of fear surrounds people always and they are scared of gatherings.” Tight security was provided and the event was held without incident.


St. John’s Cathedral was seveley damaged in 2015 during a massive earthquake, magnitude 7.5 that shook the country. More than 275 people were killed and hundreds of buildings were damaged, including the diocesan educational and worship spaces. Repair work is now complete on the cathedral. The Diocese of Peshawar is one of the largest of the Church of Pakistan.


Holy Week services filled the churches throughout the Diocese, “and the love for the resurrected Jesus Christ was at display,” said Oliver Caleb, a member of the diocesan communication team.


Bishop Peters told parishioners that “being a leader in Christianity means a humble servant of God and His people” and that “despite Jesus being ‘the Master,’ he washed the feet of his disciples.” Many were brought to tears as the bishop washed the feed of the elderly men and women in the congregation. “One could clearly see tears in the eyes of many as they were all touched by the moment,” Caleb said.