A Christmas-themed train on Thursday set out on a journey to criss-cross Pakistan in an effort to promote tolerance in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.
Adorned with Christmas lights and mock snowmen, and with carriages that have portraits and tributes to notable Christian Pakistanis, the government says it hopes to change mindsets in Pakistan, where attacks and persecution of religious minorities have become routine.
“This is a sign of tolerance, everybody will celebrate Christmas together,” Human Rights Minister Kamran Michael told media, adding that members of the public would be welcomed to visit the train and see its exhibits along its many stops.
It set off Thursday afternoon from Islamabad to Peshawar and will travel to Lahore on Christmas day before leaving for Karachi on January 1.
Agnes, a Catholic Pakistani who attended the launch ceremony, said she was grateful for the gesture, while acknowledging it was symbolic.
“It’s nothing more than a function — but it makes me feel proud, it is a first step,” she said. “Let’s hope we can celebrate Christmas in peace and harmony in the many years to come”.