Easter, a day when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, is a time for new beginnings and hope amidst a global crisis, but for Christians in Pakistan, there is a certain uneasiness felt during this season.
In preparation for the Easter holiday, Christians in Pakistan are mobilizing to increase security measures as they anticipate extremists' attacks over the weekend -extremists whose goal is to persecute people of faith have been known to attack during important Christian holidays.
According to the International Christian Concern, the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) revealed just how Christians in Pakistan are gearing up for the Easter holiday. Instead of happy and peaceful celebrations, they are bracing for the worst by anticipating attacks by extremists who target them..
"For the past 12 years, I have been leading young men dedicated to supporting the security guards stationed at the cathedral," William Arif Khan shared to ACN. He is a Christian leader who directs a team of security volunteers at Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral. Khan shared that their service to the church is provided without any "reward" and that they are committed by their faith to dedicate their time during the Easter holiday to the church.
"The volunteers are equipped with metal detectors," Khan explained of the security measures they need to undertake. "The police have allowed us to keep some licensed weapons on the church premises, but mostly either my deputy or I are armed with a pistol."
Pakistani Christians have been targeted on important holidays over the past few years. Back in 2015, two churches in the Youhanabad neighborhood of Lahore were attacked by suicide bombers just before Easter. The following year, a public park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating was also attacked by another suicide bomber.
As Christians in Pakistan are bracing for possible attacks, help is on the way for others who have been displaced by the government.
According to UCA News, a diocesan office of Caritas Pakistan has already mobilized to provide ration packs among 100 Christian families who were forcefully evicted in the anti-encroachment campaign by the government. Back in early March, about 450 Catholic families were displaced as their houses in Hyderabad and Karachi cities in the Sindh province were destroyed.
Caritas Pakistan Karachi executive secretary Mansha Noor mused, "It is sad that instead of focusing on charity, fasting and prayers in Holy Week, they are looking for shelter with their relatives or surviving in partially damaged houses."
According to reports, the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and a Seventh-day Adventist church are also set to be demolished by the government and Christians in Pakistan who are living near the drain where sludge and mud had drained from the demolition sites are protesting against the bulldozers and cranes that are set to destroy their homes.
Urban Resource Centre's Zahid Farooq said during a March 30 press conference that as much as 14,000 homes and 3,000 shops will be affected by the Pakistani government's plan to clean and broaden storm-water drains. He urged the government, "Even in times of war, there are breaks allowed for celebrating religious festivals...at least stop the operation during those religious holidays to allow these people to celebrate their festivals in peace."