Authorities in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, where Christians often face mistreatment at the hands of Islamic extremists, have reportedly vowed to provide “foolproof security” for churches on the Good Friday and Easter holidays.
Christians did end up packing churches in Lahore for Good Friday, reports Pakistan’s Samaa TV, noting, “The Lahore Cathedral Church was filled with the morning worshippers at the Good Friday service which began with songs of praise for the Jesus. The parishioners also prayed for the peace and security of Pakistan.”
“We attend the Church service on Good Friday, offer prayers and commemorate the death of Jesus Christ,” an unnamed woman worshipper told Samaa. “The entire Christian community prays for the peace and security of Pakistan and the world.”
“Like other parts of the country, Christians community in Rawalpindi will [also] celebrate Good Friday today with religious fervor, while Easter will be celebrated on Sunday,” notes the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).
Ahead of the Easter celebrations, officials from concerned government departments and representatives of the Christian community met in Karachi on March 24 to discuss prospective security measures during the religious holidays.
The Christians in Pakistan news outlet reports:
It was decided that the security provided to the churches will be made foolproof in order to avoid any kind of unfortunate incident. … It was decided that special arrangements of security will be made during the prayer services held on the occasion of Good Friday and Easter.
Furthermore, it was decided that the civic organization will pay salaries to the Christian employees, before Easter.
Pakistani security forces thwarted an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked terrorist attack against Christians on Easter Sunday last year, Christians in Pakistan notes.
Islamic terrorists groups have successfully attacked the Christian community in Pakistan during the Easter celebrations in previous years.
Despite the persecution faced by Christians in Pakistan, brave members of the religious minority are urging Islamabad and private organizations to declare Good Friday and Easter as paid holidays officially, Pakistan Christian Post reveals.
This year, Christians will observe Good Friday and Easter on March 30th and April 1, respectively.
Open Doors, an organization that monitors the mistreatment of Christians across the world, ranked Pakistan as one of the top 5 countries where followers of Jesus Christ face the worst persecution.
In its latest World Watch List, Open Doors notes:
Much of the Christian persecution in Pakistan comes from radical Islamic groups that flourish under the favor of political parties, the army, and the government. These radical Islamic groups run thousands of Islamic education centers where youth are taught and encouraged to persecute religious minorities like Christians.
However, the main sources of danger for Christians often come from their own families, since conversion from Islam is seen as cause for shame.
The controversial anti-blasphemy law, which carries a punishment of life in prison or death, is used to target Christian minorities.
Besides terrorist groups, individual members of the Muslim community in Pakistan are also known to commit heinous crimes against Christians.
There are about 3.9 million Christians in Pakistan out of a total population of nearly 196.7 million, according to Open Doors.