[ACNS] “Exuberant” Christmas celebrations in the Diocese of Madras, part of the Church of South India (CSI), have been cancelled as the Moderator calls on churches to focus efforts on flood relief; but in the Diocese of Peshawar, part of the Church of Pakistan, an improving security situation means that Christmas is back after a two-year absence.
The city of Chennai and neighbouring districts have been devastated by torrential rain and overflowing lakes which have breached onto the land. “It is sad that so many lives have been lost and many people have lost their livelihood and their entire savings,” the Most Revd Dr Govada Dyvasirvadam, Moderator of the CSI and Bishop of Madras diocese, said. “It is a bleak future for many in the city and neighbouring districts, particularly those who are poor and lived in city slums and villages surrounding Chennai.”
The moderator welcomed the huge response that dioceses throughout the Church have made to the relief efforts, and has asked clergy, lay workers and church officials to all donate a day’s wages to the relief fund.
And he has suggested that exuberant celebrations of Christmas might “reflect wrongly” with those who now have nothing to look forward to.
“Christmas is a season that brings great joy to the poor, marginalised and downtrodden. It is appropriate that we transmit this into action and refrain from any celebration and festivity that will reflect wrongly as celebrating while vast majority of our brothers and sisters have nothing to look forward to,” Dr Dyvasirvadam said. “You will agree with me that it is appropriate to cancel all exuberant celebration and focus on life affirming activities among the affected and less privileged in our neighbourhood.”
He suggested that carol services and similar events be cancelled and that instead churches “show the love of Christ in action in your neighbourhood through appropriate relief and rehabilitation measures to the most deserving among the affected persons.”
“For the past few years the Christian community of Pakistan, especially [in] Peshawar, had to celebrate Christmas in a very simple way,” the Frontier newsletter of the Church of Pakistan’s Diocese of Peshawar reports. “The reason behind [this] is either the country had to face a national disaster, a natural disaster, or the Christian community was victimised by [terrorism].
“Last year on 16 December the terrorists slaughtered over 135 children during an attack at Army Public School, Peshawar. Similarly, 2013 All Saint Church massacre, and the attack on Yahounabad Church, Lahore followed by many other minor or major incidents of terrorism which overshadowed the traditional Christmas celebrations.
“Thanks God! Due to the [Pakistan Army] operation called Zerb-e-Azab against the terrorism, the security situation has improved and the citizens of the land feel much secure.
“The Christian community once again is planning to celebrate this Christmas with traditional pomp and show.”