Westminster Abbey flew Pakistan flag for Commonwealth tradition

In World
April 10, 2024

London’s Westminster Abbey flew Pakistan’s flag on March 22 to observe a tradition that dates back more than 50 years and is unrelated to Easter, an Abbey spokesperson told Reuters, responding to claims spreading online that it was a sign of Islam replacing Christianity at Easter festivities.

The white star and crescent moon atop the green background of Pakistan’s flag is an iconic symbol of Islam, the official faith of the country.

Between March 27 and April 1, social media users shared images of the flag above the centuries-old church, with one Facebook user writing: “Islamic Pakistan flag raised at Westminster Abbey during Easter week”

Another said: “Why is the Pakistan flag flying at Westminster Abbey on the holiest of days in the Christian calendar? Is this showing how low we have sunk as a country that we daren’t fly the Union flag?”

But its presence for a day above Westminster Abbey was unrelated to Easter and no flag was flown on Holy Week, which began on Palm Sunday on March 24, 2024, until the eve of Easter Sunday on March 30, 2024, when the St Peter flag was flown, an Abbey spokesperson told Reuters via email and according to its official website.

Read also: National Day: Iran’s Azadi Tower dazzles with Pakistani colours

The Pakistani flag was hoisted above the Abbey for the day on March 22 because a representative of the country’s High Commission attended Evensong that day, having been invited to commemorate Pakistan Day, according to the Westminster Abbey spokesperson.

It’s a tradition dating back more than 50 years to invite High Commission representatives of Commonwealth states to Evensong on or around their national days, the spokesperson added. Should a representative attend, the state’s respective flag will be hoisted above the Abbey.

The tradition is mentioned on Westminster Abbey’s official website, and various countries’ High Commissions have noted the occurrence, including Jamaica in August 2011, Bangladesh in March 2017, Singapore in August 2013 and 2018, Sri Lanka in February 2022 and 2023, and Trinidad and Tobago in August 2022.

A spokesperson for the High Commission of Pakistan in London said in an emailed statement to Reuters: “This year a representative from the High Commission of Pakistan attended Evensong on Friday 22nd March in advance of Pakistan Day on Saturday 23rd March. And, as per tradition the Pakistan national flag was flown.”

They added: “This is a tradition of Westminster Abbey. This privilege is accorded to all Commonwealth members on their respective National Days and is not exclusive to Pakistan only.”

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