Christmas is always one of the times of the year I especially remember. I had been living in Waziristan and had never had a day in church. I only knew about Christians through books and movies. When I came to Multan, I knew of churches in Multan and Christians living in the community, but for the last two years had never met any of them.
This year, the Rotaract Club of Bahauddin Zakariya University planned an event to celebrate Christmas with Christian fellows in a church. I was excited thinking of going to a church and at last getting to know the Christian community in Multan. I had watched in many movies how Christmas was celebrated and one of my favourite novels "pyar ka pehla shehr" (The First City of Love) had a very beautiful explanation of how a young person celebrates Christmas.
On Christmas morning, two friends and I friends biked to an Adventist Church in the city. Other club fellows were waiting there for us. We all were smiling. Hazrat Jesus Christ's birthday was always joyous for me. But this time it was exciting in a new way.
We were greeted warmly as we entered the church. I sat down with all others. Younger girls and boys were happy in their coloured dresses. We had arranged for some balloons, played with the children, gave them sweets, sat for prayers together, cut a cake, and ate together.
I got much from the experience of celebrating Christmas at a church. Since childhood, I had a perception that Christians would be different, I didn't know in what manner, but I was sure with myself that they would be different. On this Christmas morning, I wondered why they weren’t different from us. They are similar to us. They are like us more than I thought. There were younger girls who sang and boys who were enjoying Jingle Bells. They had dressed like every other girl and boy living in Pakistan. This was revealing to me. My stereotype of Christian children had transformed.
I was looking for the difference here and there but it seemed that I was present in any of traditional gathering in Punjab with its coloured dress code. I remember I was thinking about what Jean Paul Sartre had written in Nausea, "Tradition is the second nature". Punjab's tradition had given the gathering a similarity.
I had given much thought about what I had learned from that church experience. I wonder - maybe someday - Christian fellows will go to some mehfil (sitting) or u'rs where the birthday of Hazrat Muhammad or some saint is celebrated, and there we remind each other the human love we can cherish but we had sidelined. How exciting would that be?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim World Today.
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