Celebrate the difference | Political economics

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On the cold evening of December 14 in Parachinar, members of the Christian community of various ages were waiting for their Muslim friends outside the church. Once there, the two communities celebrated together. They had won the fifth St. Paul’s Church cricket tournament.

The tournament was played between Thall, a tehsil from the Hangu district bordering Kurram, the Hangu team and Parachinar. All matches have been played at Thall. The Muslim community sponsored the Parachinar team which won the final, and now together the two communities were celebrating the victory.

In Parachinar, each year the pre-Christmas festivities begin in mid-December. On December 17th, a group of Christian women organized a pre-Christmas party at the home of Ibrar Hussain Jan Turi. Turi is an independent social activist who has financially supported the religious festivals of the Christian community in Kurram. Since 2007, women from both communities have been organizing these celebrations in their homes, presenting homemade cakes and exchanging gifts.

Muslims and Christians live peacefully in the valley. Twenty years ago, the political agent bought the land for the cemetery from the Turi tribe.

The district administration also supports Christmas gatherings in Parachinar. Zahid Younas, deputy commissioner of High Kurram, said the district administration provides 25 to 30 security personnel who provide an interior and exterior cordon. The Deputy Commissioner and his team as well as the local commanders of the Army and the Frontier Corps (FC) also join in the Christmas festivities at Saint Thomas de Parachinar Church. “The district administration helps with lighting and water supply for the Christian colony. Before the merger, the PA had financially supported the Christmas and Easter festivities in Parachinar, ”explains Zahid Younas.

The Christian community has lived in Parachinar since 1902. James Malik, 70, is the chief of the tribe and a former Malik of the Christian community. According to Malik, more than 700 Christian families live in the Kurram district. Salman, also known as Sajan in his community, says a majority of Christians have migrated from various parts of the Punjab. “Christians were drawn to the natural beauty of Parachinar and the hospitality of the indigenous peoples. They never looked back and established a community here, ”he says.

There are two churches in Parachinar. One is in the Christian settlement while the other is inside the Kurram militia headquarters. The Christian community living in the center and lower Kurram also comes to the Parachinar churches for the Christmas celebrations.

Many members of the community serve in various ministries. They were employed in the police, the border corps, the education department and the municipal administration of tehsil.

Maria Kamal, 23, mother of two, is the only teacher at the local public school. She holds a master’s degree in political science. In June 2021, Naeem Khan Turo, the additional assistant commissioner for finance and planning handed in her appointment orders. “When I was appointed to a public school, apart from my family and relatives, those who expressed their enthusiasm were members of the Muslim community,” she says. Maria teaches at Mula Bagh State Primary Girls’ School. She wants to one day teach at a government college.

At Christmas, Muslims visit the church. They offer cakes to their Christian friends and eat traditional dishes. “In Kurram, the Christian community has lived with Muslims for over a hundred years. During the four years of Shiite-Sunni conflict in the valley, Christians were not harmed because Muslims from both sects protected these communities, ”said Ibrar Jan.

Zahid Hussain says that on December 24 most Muslims visit the church and participate in the rally. “Muslims present cakes and Christians offer them traditional homemade dishes,” he adds.

Ibrar Jan recalls that Muslims guarded churches and Christian families for weeks during the time of conflict. “They are building a mortuary in the Parachinar church. Muslim neighbors also collect donations, ”says Jan. For several years, Ibrar Jan Turi has been sending gifts to orphans and widows of the Christian community before Christmas.

According to data received from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), “The total population of Christians in Kurram Tribal District is 725. The majority of them live in Parachinar.

Every year, during Muharram, in Achoura, Christian communities serve drinks and beverages on the procession routes. “In Achoura, they join the procession. The Christian community has dedicated groups that participate in the Parachinar Ashura procession and mourn with the Muslims, ”adds Jan. To show their solidarity with the Muslims of Muharram and Safar, he said, Christians do not organize weddings and avoid ceremonies.


The author is a radio producer. He tweets @daudpasaney


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