Residents have begun making their way to St Michaels’ Catholic Church, one of the city’s oldest churches, as the season of Lent officially began on Ash Wednesday (March 5).
“With an offering of special prayers on Wednesday, we have begun the Lent season,” said Waqar Masih, referring to the 40-day period of fasting, reflection, prayers and repentance that Christians observe every year to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The season starts across the globe on the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday, which will be celebrated this year on April 20.
“I had ash placed on my forehead after attending the service on Ash Wednesday from the hands of Priest Younus to express repentance,” said 40-year-old Masih, adding that the act also symbolises man’s return to dust.
Another worshipper present at the church said they will hold special prayers for those who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks and for the restoration of peace in the province.
Owing to the precarious security situation, the season is being observed without much fanfare as Christians of the city are only allowed to sing hymns depicting the story of Jesus Christ in only two churches within the Cantt area.
Visitors said several incidents of violence against ethnic and religious minorities occurred last year, especially against Christians in Lahore’s Joseph Colony and the All Saints Church in Peshawar. They lamented the fact that members of their religion were also being targeted individually in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the rest of the provinces and said they are scared and keep praying for things to become normal again.
The days of Lent will certainly help give us strength, to offer sacrifices, and tolerance, which is the need of the hour, they said.
Another churchgoer who did not wish to be named said even though it is not binding on all, some older adults abstain from eating meat and some also quit smoking during the season.
Father Younus said donations usually provided during these days should be spent on those who have lost their dear ones by purchasing gifts, clothes and other accessories for them so they, too, can celebrate Easter.
The priest said that besides the spiritual renewal of self and cultivating forgiveness, he also asks the faithful to play a constructive role for restoring peace in the country.
“The first thing that I prayed for at church was an end to this environment of fear in the city,” said Aamiya Masih, another visitor.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2014.
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