PESHAWAR: With the clouds of militancy dissipating, the Christian community in Peshawar on Sunday marked Easter by taking out a large procession which marched through the streets of the city.
In previous years, the procession had been limited to the compound of the All Saints Church in the city.
All Saints Church Pastor Sarfaraz Murad said, “This is a day we have waited for so long.”
Murad went on to say that they were unable to stage such large processions in the city owing to the terror threat — which resulted in the deadly All Saints Church attack on September 22, 2013, when twin suicide bomb attacks left over 127 worshipers dead and 250 injured.
However, the pastor said that when they found out that the district authorities had approved their request for the procession this year, they were overjoyed.
The procession passed through Kohati Gate, Yakatoot, Ganj Gate, Lahori Gate before culminating at the church’s gate.
The pastor went on to declare that Pakistan was a safe country for minorities and that they had all the religious freedom here.
Talking about the ghastly terror attacks in Sri Lanka which left over 200 dead, he condemned the attacks and said that it was an attempt to sabotage the joy of the holy event.
Recalling the 2013 attack — the deadliest on the Christian minorities in the country’s history, he said that no religion in the world endorses such acts.
“These incidents have broken people’s hearts,” he added.
One of the participants in the procession, Yasir Bhatti, said that he could not explain just how elated the entire Christian community was about getting permission to stage their annual procession.
Despite the significantly lower terror threat than 10 years ago, some 700 policemen were deployed outside churches in the city on Sunday. Moreover, walkthrough gates, women police officers and Bomb Disposal Squads (BDS) were deployed.
Peshawar Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) - Operations Zahoor Babar Afridi said it was their responsibility to provide security to the minorities so that they too could celebrate their religious festivals without any fear.
Easter Sunday is known as the most well-attended Sunday service of the year for Christians as they believe that Jesus came back to life, or was raised from the dead, three days after (according to their belief) he was crucified on Good Friday.
Days before Easter, members of the Christian community had started visiting markets to shop for themselves and their loved ones. It is the second biggest festival of the Christian community in a year which is celebrated with colourful traditional festivity, said a member of the Christian community.
The main ritual of the Easter celebration is to decorate Easter eggs, which come in various colours, patterns, styles and motifs.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2019.