Friday, 25 December 2015

Travelling to My Hometown

Merry Christmas everyone!

I am out of station and have only a limited time to write a blog post. So here goes nothing.

I was wondering about an appropriate, Christmas-related subject, and after much deliberation, I will comment briefly on a Christmas tradition that I participated in this year.

Luke 2:3 says on the very first Christmas, everyone went to their own hometown..... This year, I have also traveled to my ancestral city, Peshawar (in the Khyber Pakhtunwa Province of Pakistan). The trip wasn't primarily to celebrate Christmas away from home. One can call it a coincidence, but here I am.

Peshawar is my ancestral city from both sides of the family, although I wasn't born there. Its a 2-hour flight from where I live, but I chose to take the longer route, a 30 plus hour journey by road, crossing three provinces. The temperature had already gone from 16 degrees to 2 when I finally reached my destination. The reason I took the longer route was because I needed some mental relaxation, and the trip was nothing short of meditation for me. I also read the Book of Deuteronomy from start to finish on the way.

Now this is nothing compared to the trip Joseph and Mary took. Travelling 34 miles from Nazareth to Sychar, 31 miles from Sychar to Jerusalem, and then another 6 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, a total  distance of 71 miles on foot or horseback. Just imagine.

I had taken along with me a few books, but only managed to read one, The Easter Enigma by John Wenham. Everyone asked me why I was reading a book with 'Easter' in its title instead of Christmas! But it was a fascinating read any how. I am also bringing back half a dozen books on Reformed Theology, a generous gift from a cousin's in-laws.

A few days after my arrival, the country was observing the anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on Pakistani soil, the APS Massacre of December 2014, which took place right here in Peshawar. I asked my cousin to take me to the school on the 16th so we can pay our respects, but couldn't do so because of security reasons.

I was inspired to see that many schools of Peshawar have been renamed, and they now are called by the names of the students who were brutally murdered last year. But what was even more inspiring was the enthusiasm of the city's Christian population that celebrated Christmas with vigor and confidence in a city marred by extremism and terrorism. 

The St. John's Cathedral even hoisted a 30-foot Christmas star that can be seen from afar. Christmas celebrations also went as usual at the All Saint's Church, that was bombed in 2013.

With a few days left, I also plan to visit the Sikh Gurudwara  to see how the tiny Sikh population of Peshawar are getting on with their lives. 

Pictured here is me reading The Easter Enigma in front of the Mission Hospital Chapel in Dabgari Gardens, Peshawar.