By Josué Villalón

The year 2016 has been a difficult one for Pakistani Christians, during which they suffered one of the worst jihadist attacks last Easter Sunday. An Islamist terrorist blew himself up in the central Gulsan Iqbal Park in Lahore, leaving behind 78 dead and over 300 injured. Yet at the same time it has been a year of hope. The Year of Mercy initiated by Pope Francis has been lived with great intensity by the Catholics of Pakistan. Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore, presides over the largest diocese in Pakistan. A Franciscan and a member of the Order of Friars Minor, he heads a diocese of over 450,000 Catholic faithful in the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab region. He was interviewed by Josué Villalón from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

By Mónica Zorita

This year, Christian refugees in the northern part of Iraq are twice as excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. This is because the vast majority of the villages on the Nineveh plains, which have been under occupation by the “Islamic State” (IS) since the summer of 2014, have now been liberated. In mid-2014 120,000 people fled the advancing jihadist threat, leaving their homes in great haste. “When we received the news that IS was retreating, a spontaneous celebration broke out in the refugee camps. The people went out into the streets to dance and sing, as though they did not have any other problems in their lives,” Father Luis Montes, episcopal vicar of the Latin bishop for Kurdistan, reported. He has been living in Iraq since 2010.

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