Rituals and certain beliefs may be different for Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians but Easter is a holiday that is celebrated by both sects with the same kind of fervour.
The Christian community is all set to celebrate Easter across the city on Sunday. Special prayers, ceremonies and rituals will be carried out in all the churches to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For Christians, Easter is not just a day of festivity; it is a long week of celebration combined with prayer and ceremonies held in churches. The Holy Week is celebrated during the last days of Lent — the 40 days of fasting before Easter Sunday. "The main prayers start on the night of Holy Thursday with celebration of joy," said a Catholic lawyer, advocate Saleem Michael. "The prayers end in sorrow as Friday was the day of Christ's crucifixion."
Followers of the Christian community visit their respective churches on Sunday and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. "The day comprises special religious rituals and exchange of greetings with messages of kindness, health and success," said Michael, explaining how Christians celebrate the day. "Easter is a day to celebrate the victory of good over bad."
According to Father Saleh Diego of the Catholic sect, Easter is celebrated in two different ways by the Catholics and the Protestants. The difference pertains to the main prayer on Saturday, which is the last day of fasting. Catholics start their prayers on Saturday night as they believe that the date changes at midnight. In contrast, the Protestants wait for sunrise and pray after 4am. This ritual, called 'Sunrise Prayers', continues till 6:30am.
"We follow what is written in the Bible," said Reverend Hiskael Yaqob, a Protestant who belongs to the Universal Gospel Assembly of Pakistan. "We pray with sunrise. Protestants are slightly different from Catholics. For example, we do not believe in making pictures and statues of Christ — not even on the cross."
Besides this difference in the timings of prayer, Easter holds more or less the same meaning for both groups. According to Diego, people are taught about love, respect and honour during the Holy Week. "If there is no Easter, then there is no Christianity," said Diego, explaining the importance of Easter.
"We believe our Lord is the one who suffered, upheld his passion and died," he said, referring to certain verses of the Bible. "He was buried but he rose on the third day in order to give us eternal life."
According to him, hope and belief in the resurrection of Christ is why Easter holds such significance for Christians. "It doesn't matter if you are Protestant or Catholic; the importance of the day is same [for all]," he said. Decoration of Easter eggs is yet another custom shared by the two sects. "Easter eggs are a sign of life," said Diego. "The theme is almost the same [among both sects]."
Talking about processions, Nasir Shakil of the Protestant sect explained why Christians do not make a public display of their ceremonies. "We are free to rejoice and hold processions on our religious occasions," he said. "Nobody stops us. But there are some areas where people don't like us to stage our processions. That is why most of our events are limited to our churches."
Cynthia Edward, a Roman Catholic, said that Christians offer prayers for the community and the country. "We want to end religious discrimination and security concerns," said the 26-year-old.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2015.
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