As the sun rose high on the first day of the New Year, the celebrations began in the courtyard of the St John’s church in Peshawar. Men, women and children danced to festive beats amid the bright and colourful lights. The euphoria was enough to keep away the cold.
For the past seven years, the church had not celebrated the New Year festivities like this or any other major event after the September 2013 twin suicide blasts at the All Saints Church in the capital city of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) which left at least 84 people dead and over 100 injured.
As the peace has already been restored in the province, the minority Christian and Sikh communities are celebrating their festivals without any fear.
The blinking lights covering the church and the ornately decorated Christmas tree showed that the nightmares of terrorism have been vanquished to a large extent.
As the doors of the Church opened on Wednesday, a large number of men, women and children streamed in, eager to participate in the New Year festival. They wore colourful clothes to signify the joyous occasion.
Some parishioners also presented choreographed performances to signify the importance of the event.
Several stalls and kiosks were set up where traditional and festive foods were being offered. Swings had been set up for children while games were offered.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, some members of the Christian community said that after an extended period of militancy with suicide attacks, targeted killings and kidnappings for ransoms creating an atmosphere of fear, now they are able to breathe in the chilly air freely.
Wazir Zada, provincial minister of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf who was the special guest of the occasion, said that Peshawar had been a victim of terrorism which affected its educational institutions, businesses and minorities.
“The occurrence of this [New Year] festival is a sign that peace has been restored in the province as well as the joy which had been snatched from the people of Peshawar,” he added.