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ICC Note:

Christians in Pakistan were able to celebrate a peaceful Christmas despite the threat of terrorist attack. Earlier this month, militants connected to ISIS attacked a church in Quetta, Pakistan holding a special Christmas service. As a result of that attack, 9 Christians were killed and another 57 were wounded. Security forces were deployed at churches across Pakistan to ensure the safety of those celebrating Christmas and even some of Pakistan’s top leaders extended Christmas greetings to the Christian minority. Will this be the beginning of a new, safer era for Christians in Pakistan?

12/26/2017 Pakistan (Straits Times) – There were Christmas lights and trees, but also men in khaki with rifles in their arms.

Across Pakistan, a Muslim majority country of 220 million people, Christians celebrated Christmas on Monday (Dec 25) with zeal and zest despite threats of terrorism.

The Pakistani government deployed commandos, snipers and plainclothes policemen across the country to keep terrorists at bay, as the country’s Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.

In cities from capital Islamabad to Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta, huge numbers of worshippers dressed in festive outfits poured into heavily guarded churches decorated with Christmas lights and trees for prayer sessions.

The security measures come after a suicide gun attack on Dec 17 at the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta during a Sunday service. Nine Christians were killed, with dozens wounded.

In a pleasant surprise for the local Christian community, Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, took part in Christmas celebrations at Christ Church in the heart of garrison city Rawalpindi. In Pakistan, it is rare for the chief of the armed forces to attend any religious gathering.

General Qamar Bajwa acknowledged the contribution of Christians not only to the creation of Pakistan but also to its progress, in a press note issued by the Pakistan army on Monday.

The country’s top leaders, President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, also sent well wishes to the Christian community for Christmas.

Such gestures have brought some cheer to Christians in Pakistan, who make up less than 2 per cent of its population. They have long faced discrimination, often ending up doing low-paying jobs, and sometimes becoming the target of trumped-up blasphemy charges.

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