Pilgrim’s progress: Security increased for st. Mary festival

Devotees and security officials have begun making preparations.


Asad Kharal August 24, 2011

LAHORE:


The annual Ijtema of Ziarat-e-Muqadsa Maryam of the Christian community is going to be held from September 9-11 at the National Mariamabad Shrine Mariamabad chack3/RB district Shiekhupura.


According to locals, a large number of Christians from different parts of the country are likely to attend the event. Fool-proof security arrangements have been made to avoid any untoward incident.

The Punjab Home Department has issued a notice to the Inspector General of Police, Regional Police Officer Shiehupura Region and other concerned officials to make appropriate security arrangements for the occasion.

Security officials have been directed to take extra precautions, given the large number of devotees expected to attend the event and recent tensions involving minority communities.

The Catholic Church in Pakistan opened Mariamabad for pilgrims in early 50’s with an announcement that “Holy Mary had been appeared in a vision by a few children on a sand mound in the village”. Reverend Frank, a missionary from Belgium, invited Catholic Christians to offer prayers on that particular spot in month of September. The sand mound was erected with a stone hill and decorated with the statue of Holy Mary.

The villagers donated grains to prepare a langar and arrange free food for pilgrims during the Holy Mary Festival. In 1980, Mariamabad became famous among Christians throughout Pakistan after several reports of miracles at the event.

Pilgrims said that wishes were granted if one prayed to the statue. “We have dozen of incidents of women praying for sons, unemployed men praying for jobs and sick people praying for cures. All the prayers were answered,” said a pilgrim Malik Masih.

Hundreds of pilgrims can be seen making their way to the Mariamabad on foot or on bicycles. “One can see the procession from miles away,” said an eyewitness Rahman.

The National Marian Shrine in Mariamabad is the site of an annual pilgrimage for the September 9 feast of the birth of Mary.

This event has been taking place since 1949. Mariamabad means city of Mary in the Urdu language.

Mariamabad has existed for over a century making it one of Pakistan’s oldest Catholic settlements. Located about 80 km from Punjab’s capital of Lahore, it covers an area of 200 acres and has become the destination for over one million pilgrims a year.



Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.

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