Hossana in a multicultural nation – Pakistan

What ever the form of celebration, goodwill gestures add up to peaceful initiatives that certainly promote coexistence and interfaith harmony to build a peaceful Pakistan

“Hosanna! Hosanna!”

“Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” could be heard across the globe on Palm Sunday, which marks the transition from the season of fasting, Lent, to the Holy Week that ends with Good Friday. This is followed by the blessed feast of Easter.

A glimpse at St Mary's Church on Easter

Here in Pakistan, a country that publications like Newsweek wrongfully termed as ‘The Most Dangerous Country in the World,’ faithful were seen waving tall palm branches and chanting, “Hosanna in the Highest” on Palm Sunday that was observed last Sunday. From the magnificent grand cathedrals shining in divine splendor to miniature churches and chapels in mohallas and far-fetched villages of Pakistan, the wave of ‘Hosanna’ was felt engulfing the entire ambiance with intense spirituality.

St Mary’s Lahore English Choir carrying on with the traditional celebrations of Palm Sunday:

“Easter holds much significance for Christians across the world. It is a religious feast which is celebrated with much solemnity. This is not a one-day feast. It’s an entire season beginning with Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent – the season of fasting. The season of Lent and Easter are determined by the sighting of the moon. The overall period of Lent lasts for forty-days during which Christians observe deep solemnity on Fridays as faithful dedicate this day to prayers and commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ. This is called The Way of the Lord or The Stations of the Cross,” said Rev Fr Patrick Samuel of St Mary’s Church Lahore.

A day before Ash Wednesday, the faithful observe Shrove Tuesday (famously called Mardi Gras or The Carnival) as a cultural festival since any sort of luxurious food and activities are prohibited during Lent. Lent is followed by Easter season called Eastertide, which is for fifty days on the feast of Pentecost. The entire period is observed with sincere divinity.

On all these days, faithful can be seen making their way to their respective Churches. While some are seen travelling to Church on their private vehicle, a huge fraction can be seen coming and making their way home on local transport. In fact, if you travel down the GT Road you’ll spot random villages and small towns where you’ll notice multitudes of faithful travelling on foot to their Churches. Not only this, you’ll see Priests and Padres with their Catechists on bikes and vans travelling to far off villages to celebrate the Holy Mass. Such sights are simply overwhelming and an evidence to the fact that Pakistan is very much a nation of peace and coexistence.

Younas, a local rickshaw wala, shared his experience saying, “At our stop we are only two Christians. We don’t work on Sunday as we have to go to Church with our families. But, our fellow rickshaw walas take care of our customers who need to go to Church. This is a matter of gratitude and appreciation.”

“It is not about money. Money and fortune is all in God’s will. If you talk about earning, then we would just be taking anyone anywhere and earning what’s in our fate. We respect our Christian brethren. They are our fellowmen and facilitating them their place of worship is our moral duty. I see it as a matter of great blessing as the Almighty wants us to live in peace,” said Nawaz, a fellow rickshaw wala of Younas.

Catholic priests offering Prayers at Mariamabad prior to Easter

During the season of Lent, Catholics performed Lenten pilgrimage to the local Marian Shrine in the village of Mariamabad. There have been at least thirty to fifty buses and vehicles that made a procession to the Holy shrine for personal intentions and congregational prayers. While the pilgrims lost themselves to the divine aura of the moment, police officials designated by the government stood on guard. Not only this, police officials and security guards are on duty at the on ordinary Church days to ensure security and comfort.

As the Holy Week has commenced we’ll spot faithful attending congregational prayers throughout the week. One can easily spot nuns too walking down the Mall Road carrying their small prayer kits. Such is the wonderful sight which the world needs to witness about Pakistan.

Faithful shopping for Easter Candles at Daughters of St Paul

In the wee hours of Easter morning, faithful route their way with candles for the Sunrise Mass. Prayers continue throughout the day. But while Easter is a solemn feast filled with prayers and divine celebrations, Easter cultural traditions mark the presence of the feast in a social way. In this regard, it’s worth mentioning the efforts of commercial manufacturers who show solidarity with the Christian community through their service. It’s worth mentioning Shezan Bakery and International Bakers that have carried on with honouring the traditions by baking Hot Cross Buns for Holy Thursday and Easter Eggs on Easter day. Hot Cross Buns, that religiously hold more significance, mark the end of Lent with the Cross representing the Crucifix. Pakistan is indeed in the official list of ‘Countries that eat Hot Cross Buns.’ As the matter of fact, local brand Nishat Linen took to social media to mark Easter as a special occasion on their calendar.

While some people may condemn this gesture of goodwill as a means to promote sales, this in its own subtle way is a course to promote coexistence and solidarity.  “We are not bothered with the promotion or sale. We are happy that at least someone recognized it as an important feast and the community,” commented a Facebook fan. Not to forget the Easter special coverage on state owned television channel, especially PTV Weekend World, that telecasts special episode every year.  No matter what ever is the form of celebration, such goodwill gestures add up to peaceful initiatives that certainly promote coexistence and interfaith harmony to build a peaceful Pakistan.

Shezan Bakers carrying on the tradition of offering scrumptious Easter Eggs

Pakistan is among the top countries that eat Hot Cross Buns on this day

PTV Weekend World Easter Special:

Marian Sharaf Joseph is an independent journalist. Her work for local and global publications focuses on culture and community affairs