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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Freedom of faith: First church built for Christians of Okara, Pakistan

A heart warming story, we need more of these stories to restore the communal balance in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. I have read beautiful stories of Sikhs restoring Mosques in Indian Punjab, Muslims restoring a Hindu Temple in west Bengal.  We have to stand up for each other to build a better world. Your faith is beautiful to you as my faith is beautiful to me. Let's make this life beautiful for both of us.

Mike Ghouse
Foundation for pluralism

Published: December 27, 2014


The church in Okara built by Pakistan Army. PHOTO: EXPRESS
Pakistan Army has built a church for Christians residing in Okara.
ISPR Spokesperson Major Asad told The Express Tribune that the church was a gift to the Christian community.
“The founders of Pakistan wanted people from all faiths to feel free to practice their religion,” he said. “It is a duty of the armed forces to uphold those values.”
He said there had been no churches in Okara, where nearly 20,000 Christians lived.
The church, constructed in Okara cantonment, can accommodate a congregation of 1,200 people.
The first prayer service at the church was held on Christmas eve. Major Asad said the formal inauguration had been postponed after 141 people were killed in the massacre in Peshawar on December 16. The church was to open officially on Christmas.
He said Multan Corps Commander Lieutenant General Abid Pervez had overseen the project. He said the army had bought land for the church and had collected donated for its construction.
He said philanthropists had donate generously for the church.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Lt General Pervez said the church had been handed over to Father Martin of Catholic faith. He said for the inauguration ceremony of the church was expected to be held in January. Religious scholars from various faiths would be invited on the occasion to speak on interfaith harmony and to promote religious harmony in the society.
He said it was the biggest church in Sahiwal division.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Muhammad Qaisar, 75, said, “I am glad that I can visit a church in my hometown. I have lived in Okara all my life and have never been able to attend mass.”
Okara Christian Welfare Society president Younus Chohan said Christians of Okara were delighted to have a church in their midst.
On Thursday, a walk was held in Okara, led by representatives of the Christian community. They chanted slogans in support of Pakistan Army.
Father Martin told The Express Tribune prayers would be offered for the children of Peshawar for a year.
Markazi Azadari Imam Hussain Council appreciated Pakistan Army for building the church in Okara.
President Hasan Mashadi said people from would attend the inauguration ceremony to show solidarity members of other communities.
Mashadi said such spaces should also be built for Sikhs and Hindus.
The church was open for visitors on Christmas and nearly 1,800 people visited it.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2014.

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