Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Congregation remains faithful despite security threat
Peshawar church benefits from Islamic disguiseAll Saints Church in Peshawar
- ucanews.com reporter, Peshawar
- June 29, 2012
âHowever, they are usually from other cities since local Muslims know itâs a Church,â said Ikhtiar Khan, one of the guards.
Biblical verses inscribed on the doorway in Persian and Pashto are the only hints at the churchâs entrance that this is a Christian place of worship.
The building features Islamic-style white minarets and a dome as well as a wooden pulpit raised two feet above the congregation, a feature also found in Pakistani mosques.
When 13 Christians installed a black cross on top of the building after it was completed under British colonial rule in 1883 they were shot and killed by angry Muslims living in the area, a threat which prompted the building to be disguised as a mosque in the first place.
âThe cross still bears a bullet hole,â said Pastor Ejaz Gill.
In many ways, the incident set a precedent for the risks associated with attendance at All Saints Church nowadays.
The only Christian place of worship in Pakistan built like a mosque, it lies on the border with war-torn Afghanistan in an area that has seen years of violence amid an insurgency by the Taliban.
âPeshawar was part of Afghanistan at that time [when it was built] and the fundamentalism here was the same, just like nowadays,â said Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar diocese.
Four years ago, his predecessor demanded a police presence outside the church as the security situation continued to deteriorate.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, has seen the number of bomb blasts attributed to the Taliban rise from 137 in 2010 to 198 in 2011, according to official figures, while more than 11,000 people have died in the province from violence associated with the Afghan insurgency since 2005.
Wire gauze is spread across a newly built 10-foot high wall around the All Saints Church, which is located in a bustling area of the city dominated by shoe shops and cloth merchants.
Only the main gate where Khan works is open to vehicles in a bid to tighten security. He says he has attended the funerals of four colleagues killed by the Taliban since he started working for the police in Peshawar five years ago.
Thus far the church has not been directly targeted, said Pastor Gill.
âStill, the fear of terrorism grows during bigger gatherings and parishioners usually enter through a back door,â he says, adding that attendance has remained stable despite the security threat.
Only one parishioner has died from terrorist attacks in the city, he added.
Azeem Stephen, a young parishioner whose father is part of the churchâs choir, said he was lucky to escape a minor blast in 2010 after a rickshaw exploded just seconds after he passed it.
Despite the apparent security threat, he has no plans to stop attending services, he says.
âWe feel safe once we enter church premises.â