In Christian communities in Pakistan, Christmas is a special time. In the local language, Christmas is known as Bada Din, meaning Big Day. Christians adorn their houses with fairy lights and decorations, including a star, a crib, a wreath and a Christmas tree. Santa hats and snowmen can also be seen.
If they can afford it, people buy new clothes to wear on Christmas day. Christmas cakes are bought or made to give away to family and friends. Christmas cards are sent to friends and relatives and gifts are exchanged with loved ones.
Carol services and nativity plays are held in churches, where money is collected for local charities. On Christmas Eve, churches are packed with people; many attend midnight services and people stay up all night. There are fireworks, music and dancing. On Christmas Day, church services continue, and people offer their praise to God and dedicate to Him prayers for the nation. People go on to celebrate, enjoying time with family and friends.
Along with the festivities and celebration, a harsh reality exists, especially for those who live in Muslim dominated areas, where Christmas celebrations must be subdued and private. Religious intolerance and violence against Christians have significantly increased in recent years and churches are regularly targeted. The government has failed to take action to protect Christians and their places of worship. Many churches have had to provide their own security arrangements.
In addition to targeted attacks on Christian worshippers, violence against Christian women and forced conversion to Islam has reached unprecedented levels. Because of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, Christians are also at risk of being falsely accused of blaspheming Islam, the Koran or Mohammed and harsh punishments are given as a result. Persecution is often combined with poverty as Christians suffer discrimination and lack of education opportunities.
Despite the danger and the oppression, Christians in Pakistan remain strong in their faith. Christians will celebrate Christmas this year with their usual fervour and spirit.
Please join with us in upholding our brothers and sisters in this restricted nation. Thank the Lord for their faithfulness and ask for their protection. Pray too that the reality of Christ’s humble sacrifice in coming to Earth, may bring great joy this Christmas.
In Pakistan, Christians are frequently trapped in a cycle of poor education and poverty. Many are employed as indentured servants in brick kilns or tree nurseries, as street sweepers and as sewage workers.
Javed started working at a brick kiln in Punjab at the age of six. As a child, he was given just one small meal per day, he had little free time, and never received medical care or an education.
Javed was forced to work to pay off the debt of a family member whom he didn’t even know. He was never informed of the details of the loan, including the total amount borrowed. Each time Javed made a mistake with one of his tasks, he was fined, and the loan debt was raised. Once, his ‘employer’ beat him because he said his performance was too slow. Once when he was a little older, Javed tried to escape, only to be apprehended by the local police who returned him to the brick kiln.
He and his family were required to work on Sundays and were not able to go to church. At Christmas, they were permitted to go to church but only on the condition that they would not attend as a family – at least one member had to stay behind to guard against escape. This was distressing for Javed’s family as Christmas in Pakistan is very much a family event.
Thanks to a ministry partner in Pakistan, Javed, now an adult, has recently been freed from bonded labour, though he is still greatly struggling.
His wife died a few years ago from cancer as they could not afford medical treatment. He is now raising four children alone. He works long hours as a screen printer and is trying to provide a better life for his children.
This year, he is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family in a traditional Pakistani way. He intends to decorate his house with Christmas decorations, buy Christmas cake and new clothes for his children, and attend church on Christmas day where he can share the joy of the season with friends and loved ones.
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