In the American church, it can be easy to forget that the global Church – who are, like the church across the world, called, equipped, justified, and sanctified by Christ’s blood – have a very different experience than we do. Though the American church has enjoyed a great many years of a culture that’s ranged from accepting to ambivalent of Christianity, this is not the case in other parts of the world. The account below speaks about how “Christmas” is received in Pakistan, in the culture at large but also in Christian communities specifically.
December twenty-fifth is a national holiday in Islamic Pakistan, but it
is not to celebrate Christmas. Pakistan’s founder, Jinnah, was born
on December twenty-fifth. The nation pauses to remember his life.
Christians in Pakistan are a minority making up only 2.5% of the
population. They are thankful to have Christmas off each year, even
though the majority culture is not remembering the birth of Christ.
Advent marks the four Sundays before Christmas in Pakistani churches.
Pastors emphasize the significance of Christmas. It is common to
remember Isaiah’s messianic prophesies.
They sing openly in the streets and have caroling services, crossing
boundaries they ordinarily must observe. Only in Christian colonies do
decorations appear. They light stars on rooftops and decorate churches,
homes, and streets. Christmas joy gives them a sense of unity and
revives communities with fellowship. Many family members who live in
other countries for work come home to celebrate Christmas.
In Pakistani culture, new clothes mark the joy of Christmas, yet most
Christians are poor. It is the only time of year children receive a new
set of clothes, shoes, and toys. The girls and young women decorate
their hands with henna tattoos.
These days there is an element of fear among Christians in Pakistan.
They feel scared about terrorist attacks, especially at Christmas.
Still, they celebrate. Resilient faith and strong family ties strengthen
Pakistani Christians. Many have courage and come to worship even in threatening
situations. The Government now supports churches by providing complete
security at these times. Pakistani Christians are thankful and trust the
Lord to keep them safe.
Other faiths love to hear carols sung in Urdu and Punjabi, the languages of Pakistan. People come to the Christmas programs, especially to see the Christian nativity
plays. The message of love and peace resonates strongly. Most churches
do not discriminate at gatherings. At Christmas, it is not uncommon for
people from all faiths to celebrate a cake-cutting ceremony to ensure
interfaith harmony. Yet Pakistani Christians still pray for peace and
security in Pakistan. They also pray they would love one another well
and extend their love to the Islamic majority.
In this new year, let’s pray for Pakistani Christians to be encouraged in their faith, for the whole country of Pakistan to respond in faith to Jesus’s offer of salvation, and that the global church would be united as one body!