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Chapel in Pakistani university

FAISALABAD (UCAN): The University of Agriculture Faisalabad has become the first government educational institute in the country to open a chapel on campus for its Christian students and staff.
 
A large banner at the entrance to the area is emblazoned with a picture of the local bishop, as well as St. Peter’s Catholic church. A script reads, “Let us make a house for the Lord.”
 
While most Pakistani universities host mosques, Faisalabad will be the first to allow a chapel on its campus.
 
An area has been set aside near the quarters of 70 Christian university employees, most of whom are sanitary workers, gardeners and support staff.
 
But for a music teacher on the staff, Farrukh Habib, it is a dream come true.
 
“This will be the first Muslim university to have a minority place of (Christian) worship. Now our children can access catechism right on their doorstep. Christian students are happy too. We thank both the university administration and the diocese,” Habib said.
 
“Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the largest student union in the country, usually opposes cultural activities in other universities, but here they respect us,” he continued.
 
More than 400 Christians at the university celebrated when Bishop Joseph Arshad, together with the Muslim vice chancellor, laid the foundation stone on May 16.
 
Faisalabad diocese will contribute 300,000 rupees ($34,875) toward the project which has a total cost estimate of 7.6 million rupees ($520,350).
 
The university has allocated over one square kilometre for the construction.
 
Established in 1906 as the first major institution of higher agricultural education in the Punjab prior to Pakistan’s separation from India, the university houses more than 20 mosques and has separate hostels for women and men.
 
Habib explained that it was not easy to get the plan approved. 
 
In the 1990s, we submitted a request for a church building, but the administration did not agree. There were no lawns in the proposed plan, but now a clean environment will also benefit the worshippers,” he said.
 
Bishop Arshad held a ground-breaking ceremony for the campus church in 2015, but the project still stalled. Bishop Arshad said it took him another three years to negotiate with university officials.
 
“We had to work hard as many officers kept delaying our proposal,” the bishop explained.
 
“Finally, we have great news for the whole Christian community in Pakistan. This is a landmark for the diocese, he said.”
 
Chapels in government-run health or educational facilities are a rare phenomenon in Pakistan. There are no places of worship for Hindu or Sikh students in 108 state-run universities either.
 
As opposed to Muslims, who openly pray in parks and along the roadways, Christians and other religious minorities prefer to pray indoors. 
 
However, Christian conventions still encourage the community to make the sign of cross in public.
 
Saad Suleman, a doctoral candidate in Veterinary Medicine, said his Muslim friends congratulated him on the day the university announced its plans to provide a Christian chapel on campus.

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