In a move to a more religiously free campus life, an Islamic university in Pakistan has opened a Christian chapel, a first in the South Asian nation.

St. Mary’s Church opened at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad on April 15, 2018. The University is one of the top research institutions in the country and is located in Pakistan’s third most populous city. A land of more than 200 acres was given for the construction of St. Mary’s, reports Sight Magazine.

Dr. Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, the university’s vice chancellor, said they have Christian students and employees, and having a Christian chapel is the answer to their religious needs.

Archbishop Joseph Arshad, the president of Pakistan’s bishops’ conference, is elated to have a chapel inside the university. He said it “will leave a message of love and harmony.”

In an interview with Crux, Arshad said the inauguration of the church will have positive effects inside the campus.

“Respect for other religions, giving a message of peace and harmony, facilitating the integration of religious minorities into larger society, demonstrating the importance of learning and knowing about other religions, and allowing students of different religions to learn to live together,” he said.

Dr. Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, the university’s vice chancellor, said they have Christian students and employees, and having a Christian chapel is the answer to their religious needs.

“The mosque or church both are sacred places for worship of God and I believe in interfaith harmony and said church building on the university’s premises is a living example of Christian-Muslim brotherhood,” said Dr. Iqbal.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country and Christians make up only 1.5% of the total population. The country’s blasphemy law has been used to persecute religious minorities, mostly against Christians.

Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team said the blasphemy law “has been used to foment disorder, anarchy, disrespect for the law [and] vigilante mobs, which is bad for all of Pakistan, not to mention how oppressive it is to the people who are subject to it.”

Cecil S. Chaudhry of the bishops’ conference said St. Mary’s Church will bridge gaps between Muslims and Christians. He said, it is “a message of respecting members of different faiths in all spheres of life especially educational institutions.”

Sources:
Crux
Sight Magazine

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