by Marion Molteno

Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan – families  out for a day in a park … then the world changed.  Yet another set of tragedies, for a society that already has had so many.   People don’t know what to do with their anger. My friends’ FaceBook pages echo their misery. Don’t pray for Lahore, says one, fight against hateful religious ideology.  Someone puts up a photo of a little boy – her child’s son, gone.  Another is visiting the children in hospital, struggling for their lives. She is giving them toys her friends have donated; hugs and smiles in amidst the suffering.  There’s a photo  of young men crowding a hospital entrance, wanting to give blood.

Five weeks earlier I was in Lahore for a literary festival, along with a hundred thousand other people.  Now, when we remember it,  it will always be in the shadow of what came after. But I am putting up the reflections I wrote about the festival as a tribute to the remarkable people who created a space for tolerance and debate, and will continue to do so.  I am posting it just as I wrote it before that bomb exploded; including the prophetic words from the poet Faiz with which the blog ends.

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Lahore Lit festThe hope that one day Pakistan will escape from the clutches of jihadist terrorism, corrupt politicians and an overbearing army came alive last weekend at the Lahore Literary Festival, where mostly young audiences averaging 25,000 people a day applauded criticisms and wider worries about the functioning of the country as well as enjoying other sessions on literature and the arts.

The festival took place in the shadow of a bomb blast in the city on February 17 that killed more than six people, but it matched the famous Jaipur Literature Festival for the mood, the energy and the excitement in the relaxed surroundings of the Alhambra Arts Centre, and it beat Jaipur for passion.

Aanya Niaz in the Huffington Post

Emerging from the lap of it’s thousand year glory, the city of Lahore has given its people something other than terrorism and inflation to think about: literature and the arts. Discourse has offered a soothing umbrella. Approximately 4,500 of the young, the talented, the curious and even the silent ones emerged on what was a a most auspicious and successful three-day literary festival, attended by the more than 100 speakers, including the likes of delightful Mira Nair, director of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Ahmed Rashid, renowned author of Descent into Chaos, Maliha Lodhi, celebrated former ambassador to the United States, Nahid Siddiqi, cultivated dance artisan, Kamila Shamsie, authoring melancholy of the East, Ayesha Jalal, the intriguing historian, Moeed Yusuf, leading the South Asia department at the United States Institution of Peace and many, many more.