LAHORE - Christians celebrated Easter with religious zeal in the provincial capital on Sunday.

Easter is part of Holy Week according to Christian faith, which started from Palm Sunday followed by Good Friday celebrations and ended up with Easter which Christian considers most important religious event after Christmas.

The day dawned with special prayers for peace and prosperity.  Special prayers were held at Cathedral Church of the Resurrection (Lahore Cathedral), Sacred Heart Cathedral, St Andrew's Church, St Anthony's Church, St Joseph's Church and St Henry's Church.

A special prayer was also held in Gulberg Saint Merry Church. On the occasion children performed religious singing. Police augmented security to avert any untoward incident. Security forces were deployed in and around the churches.

Punjab Chief Minister greeted Christians in a tweet, saying: “Heartiest congratulations to the Christian community on Easter. Wishing you peace, love and prosperity & we deeply acknowledge the contributions of the Christian community for Pakistan!”

On the occasion, gifts were exchanged among families and they arranged special gatherings.  Families also visited parks.

Churches have been decorated with lights.

One of the main services was held in Cathedral Church of Lahore on The Mall. Bishop of Lahore Rt Rev Irfan Jamil performed the lead sermon and Dean of Lahore Cathedral Church of the Resurrection Rev Shahid Miraj conducted special prayers.

Dean of Lahore Cathedral Church of the Resurrection Rev Shahid Miraj told The Nation that Easter is the sign of hope, peace and victory.

“On this day, we pray for prosperity of Pakistan and pledge to continue the struggle against forces of evil,” he said. 

Rama, 24, said at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Lawrence Road that Easter came with the message of hope and to remove the internal differences.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Aleem Khan in a tweet wished Easter to Christians, saying: “A very happy Easter to all celebrating it. Wishing everyone peace, love and happiness.”

PTI Chairman Imran Khan participated in a cake cutting ceremony in Lahore..

Provincial Minister for HR&MA Khalil Tahir Sandhu said the day has great importance for Christians

He said that all the religious minorities are enjoying equal rights under the constitution of Pakistan. 

In his message the other day, CM Shehbaz  reiterated his government’s resolve to protect minorities.

“We equally share pleasures on this event. Easter teaches to spend time with helpless and needy persons and share pleasures with them. Easter represents the emotion of inclination in human life towards good qualities and goodness,” Shehbaz said. 

His message read: “Respecting all prophets is our religious duty. Believing in all prophets is part of Islam. The role of Christians in the development of Pakistan is praiseworthy and this community is playing active role in the development of Pakistan. Christians have earned good name in Pakistan through its service in health and education fields.”

He said all minorities have equal rights as per the constitution of Pakistan. He said quota for minorities in jobs is being strictly implemented.  He said minorities are being provided equal opportunities to enter the national mainstream. He said Pakistan needs harmony among all religions to resolve the problems the country is currently facing. “On this event we should resolve to spread the message of love and brotherhood. Followers of all religions should work jointly for making Pakistan prosperous,” he added.

About six dozen people were killed and over 340 injured in a bomb blast in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park on Easter two years ago. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's faction Jamaat-ul-Ahraar claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to police, more than 3,000 cops guarded at least 2564 churches across Punjab province to ensure best security arrangements for minorities on Easter this year.

Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz Khan ordered his force to take all possible measures to ensure foolproof security for worship places of minority. The IGP issued these directions while addressing the Regional Police Officers’ conference through video-link at the Central Police Office.

The police were also directed to intensify security searches around important markets, parks, and other public places. For security searches, the police would use CCTV cameras, walkthrough gates and metal detectors at the entry and exit points of all churches.

The IGP directed the officers to deploy snipers and plainclothesmen, in addition to police commandos, around churches so that the Christians community could perform their religious rites fearlessly.

He said that a new security plan for courts should also be implemented under the supervision of all RPOs and DPOs keeping in mind best security measures for judges, lawyers, and citizens.

He said that strength of security personnel deployed at the entry and exit points of courts should be increased. Similarly, no one should be allowed entry in the courts without complete search with the help of walkthrough and metal detectors.

The IGP said that patrolling system of Dolphin force and Police Response Units during the duty time of courts should be made more efficient. He further said that a special monitoring officer should be appointed for efficient monitoring of security plan in every district.

More than 30,000 police were deployed across the province to guard at least 2564 churches on Easter.

The officers during the conference also reviewed the important cases related to terrorism, murder, kidnapping for ransom, and dacoity. The police were also directed to step up crackdown on the most wanted criminals and proclaimed offenders.

The police chief directed the RPOs that in view of threat alerts, the police should launch search, combing, and intelligence based operations in all districts. He said that there should be a strict vigilance over activities of defunct organizations and individual placed in the fourth schedule of the anti-terrorism act.

Arif Nawaz Khan also directed the field officers that policemen deployed on security duties should be briefed carefully about the importance of duty and sensitivity with respect to current circumstances so that they would perform their duties enthusiastically and diligently.