ISLAMABAD: The Sunday sun dawned upon the sister cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi with the promise of Easter festivities.
The formidable alacrity of motorbikes was not questioned, as they zoomed through the pedestrians making their way through the congested alley adjacent to St Thomas Church in Sector G-7. The 5am morning mass was followed by an afternoon service, which concluded in the evening.
As the day’s celebrations commenced, the young ones had a license to go all-out. Girls were glistening in vibrant outfits paired with high heels, while the boys managed to exhibit their esoteric style in denim embossed with text and motifs, neon shirts, styled hair and smiles intact, replete with eyewear.
“It completes my outfit,” proclaimed Joel, sandwiched between two boys on a bike.
While Easter is a special occasion for Christians, it is a windfall day for Mohammad Syed, a sunglasses vendor who makes sure to come by on this particular occasion each year. Strategically camped at the end of the alley, he dusted and reshuffled the sunglasses every few minutes. Cycling through town on Easter a few years back, he gauged the high demand for the accessory on this particular day.
“I come here every Easter and make more sales than I do on any day in the entire year,” said Syed. “Today, my profits are already double that of a normal day. I have been restocking every few hours. It’s been a good day,” he smiled.
Bustling with energy, the run-down streets of the kachi basti in G-7 shone with bright outfits and brighter smiles. The traffic from the church was naturally directed towards local parks. “I am going with my family to celebrate Easter. We have prepared a nice meal for the day” said Saima.
Ulfat Kaala, an elderly woman sitting on a charpoy outside her house, fondly watched her grandchildren play. A basti resident for the past few decades, she has seen the basti sprawl out. “The community’s festivities have also grown bigger with time,” she said.
Venus Ashraf, a basti resident for 22 years, believes that although most Christians in Pakistan are engulfed by poverty, their spirit of celebration remains unhampered.
For Margret, Easter was different this year. Having lost her 12-year-old son to leukaemia seven months ago, she was only there for the annual prayer. A single parent, Margret barely managed to pull together some money for her son’s treatment. In a tight spot now, she could not buy new clothes for her four living children — three girls and a four-month-old boy.
Azam Masih, a tailor, said festivities get fancier each year. “I guess when one is troubled, participation in ceremonial festivals help us forget our worries for a day.”
Meanwhile, in Rawalpindi
While, Christians from the garrison city were indulging good food and family, they also noted that Easter is also a celebration of organic values.
“I like celebrating Easter by dining out with my family,” said Komal, 45.
Simon,32, said Easter eggs are the main feature of the day, given mostly to children.
St Paul’s Church paid an ode to Easter with traditional piety, as pastors disseminated messages of renewed hope symbolised by Christ’s sacrifice.
“On Easter, we pray to God to help us overcome the scourge of hunger, conflicts and wastefulness caused by us humans,” said St Paul’s Church Pastor Dr Samuel Titus.
“I pray that God enlightens us all and promotes peace in the country, giving us strength to make every effort in curbing terrorism and resolving conflicts peacefully,” said Titus.
The city’s churches and homes of Christians reverberated with prayers, recalling the final days of Christ’s life, from his entry into Jerusalem to his crucifixion at Calvary. Special prayers for the restoration of peace in the country were also held.
“Christ teaches us lessons in forgiveness and helping others, working for peace and tolerance,” said Afzal Masih. “There are lessons we all need to learn from the sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross at Calvary,” he added.
“Let us work together, regardless of religion and caste, to put our motherland back on the path to development,” urged Sajid Masih, 50.
Special security arrangements had also been made for the churches, including walkthrough gates and metal detectors provided to the churches’ administrations, besides police personnel deployed outside churches.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2014.