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December 25, 2010

Peace on earth

Lahore

December 25, 2010

Today, December the 25th, is the day that we celebrate the birthday of the man who made Pakistan possible – Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It is also the day when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him), and Christians in Pakistan will be going to church today to say their prayers and sing hymns and carols. All of us, whether we be Muslim or Hindu or Sikh or Buddhist or Christian, live with the legacy that Jinnah left for us. Sadly, he never lived to see the dreams that he fought so hard to turn into reality become a mature nation. Would he have recognised the country that is now Pakistan? Shriven from top to bottom by sectarianism, terrorism, corruption in every part of the land and a sense of despair? He might, because if nothing else Jinnah was a realist rather than a starry-eyed romantic. Yet were he with us today he might also feel a profound sense of disappointment, betrayal even, of the ideals that he and his comrades struggled so hard to establish. Pakistan at the end of 2010 is not what Jinnah had in mind – certainly not what he had in mind for believers in a minority faith in this Muslim country.
As the Christians here celebrate today, many will do so with a sharp sense of fear in the background. There will be guards on the gates of their churches, men with guns whose job is to stop other men with guns from getting in and killing the celebrants. Christians, and other minorities, are routinely discriminated against in the jobs market and have to struggle that little bit harder to get advancement. They are the subject of sometimes false or mischievous accusations of blasphemy (as are Muslims let us not forget) and their churches are attacked with depressing regularity. The prosecution of those who carry out those attacks is by no means assured – because the police may ‘pursue’ the case or build the evidential corpus in such a way as to ensure an acquittal rather than the sentence the crimes deserve. Jinnah spoke to

us of tolerance and unity, not intolerance and schism. Christians today will be praying for there to be peace on earth and goodwill to all men. We do likewise, and will pray today for the peace of all of us, no matter what their faith.

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