LAHORE : Today, the Christian community in Pakistan will celebrate Easter, but without the usual services in the churches or the traditional congregations and processions of the past years but through online services due to a lockdown after the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the ever growing deadly menace of the coronavirus, this year’s Easter, being celebrated on Sunday (Today), is entirely different from any other Easter celebrated by the Christian community in the history of Pakistan, since unlike congregations, masses and vigils being held in the churches, all special services, prayers and rituals will be held and observed by the devotees from their homes electronically, through video link and national broadcast.
For the first time in the history of the country, the Christian community is celebrating the festival in the provincial capital in the most difficult times and under the unprecedented economic and socio-cultural difficulties in the same way as faced by their fellow Pakistani brothers and sisters in every locality of the country during a lockdown after the pandemic.
Talking to The News on Saturday, Rt. Reverend Shahid Miraj, Dean of Lahore Cathedral, said that due to the ever growing menace of coronavirus, which has resulted into an unprecedented difficult and dangerous situation, there would be no general services available to the community at the churches but right from the “sunrise service” at 4.30 am, there would be special Easter-related electronically managed broadcasts and special services, organised through video link to facilitate the people at their homes for their safety and protection from the coronavirus. Like Good Friday celebrations in every country in the world, the start of the Easter-related activity and prayers start from 4.30 am and the first service being held in this connection is known as “The Sunrise Service”.
Giving details of Easter services, Shahid Miraj said that the entire community and priests had been given special instructions to observe anti-corona protocol and follow all precautions against the menace which included staying at home, use of face masks, sanitizer, gloves and washing hands repeatedly. He added that in view of Covid19 rapid growth in the country in general and in the provincial capital in particular, it had been decided for the greater good of the community and the entire nation that all Easter services would be held online through video link and radio broadcasts.
The Dean of Lahore Cathedral said that the lineup of Easter-related religious services includes the first event of online sunrise service, which traditionally spans over two hours, but it has been shortened to 30 to 35 minutes only. The second service, which will be in English, would be held at 8.30 am by Bishop of Lahore Rt. Reverend Irfan Jameel.
The third and equally significant service in Urdu will be held at 10.30 am for a brief duration. The longest and nationally broadcast service will be on national hookup from the Cathedral Church of Resurrection, The Mall, Lahore, at 2.5pm with a shortened duration of 45-50 minutes. The duration of the services has been shortened because there will be no physical participation of the community in the churches, thus the usual delays and time consumed in the rituals and arrangements would be less this time. Secondly, a long service at home may make people a little uneasy in the present circumstances created by the coronavirus since people are already not happy due to the restrictions imposed on them by the deadly menace.
The Dean of Lahore Cathedral appealed to all Pakistanis in general and the people of Lahore in particular to stay at home and obey the rules and instructions by the government for their own safety from the coronavirus. Congratulating the Christian community and all Pakistanis on the great day, he prayed for safety of all Pakistanis and humans from the pandemic.
While the government is doing everything in its power to protect and facilitate the masses, as citizens it is imperative we do our part as well. This year, as celebrations are underway, whoever is privileged as the majority in the country, let’s vow to protect our minority community.
Those empowered enough to celebrate their religious festivals with ease should step forward and help others celebrate theirs. Community building at a micro level is the only thing that helps nation building. It is what helps us realize that there is truly unity in diversity. A parishioner in Lahore said that church services always pray for peace and security in Pakistan and the world. This is a wish no different from people of any other religion in Pakistan whether Muslims or Hindus. Let’s protect our Christian brothers and sisters while they pray for the protection of the county that is home to us all.
It is pertinent to note that Easter is also the culmination of the entire year’s worship and prayers and 40 days of fasting by the Christian community followed by celebrations and jubilations. Culturally, it signifies a lot more, especially in ethnically and religiously diverse countries such as Pakistan. It is a celebration full of colour and life. Not to mention colorful eggs and adorable bunnies, which are taken as symbols of new life.