07/15/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Punjab: Church holds summer camp for Christian and Muslim children

by Qaiser Felix

In the area of Toba Tek Singh, one of the poorest areas of the country, the parish – together with local volunteers – is holding a summer camp that features several activities for children. Participants even watched the World Cup football final together.

Toba Tek Singh (AsiaNews) – The Human Development Centre of Faisalabad has organised a summer camp for more than 70 children – Christians and Muslims – studying in the school of the Toba Tek Singh parish. The 15 Muslims students go to the camp during the day while the 63 Christians are lodging in the area's two Catholic schools.

The parish reaches out to the population of one of the poorest areas of Pakistani Punjab, where 70 small villages gradually developed, home to around 7,000 Catholics. The summer camp was achieved not only by parish staff but also thanks to many residents, who voluntarily came forward to help. They went to help the children, to give them food and even to hold a few lessons.

Ashfaq Masih, principal of St Peter's High School, told AsiaNews: "The unique thing in this summer camp is the teaching of practical skills as well as values that are important for individual growth."

Christian students, who come from remote areas of the province, said they were "very happy", not only because they could spend the summer learning new things, but because they felt freer "to think about Gospel values and to be able to attend Mass daily" – where they come from, Mass is not celebrated on a regular basis.

The organizers even managed to show their guests the World Cup football final. Seventeen-year-old Irfan said: "It was so exciting for me to watch the game with my friends. I think that sport promotes universal values like peace, tolerance and modesty. I have observed how one should remain firm to his or her mission even when facing problems and challenges."

Sunil Asi, another student, said: "I really appreciate the summer camp: here there are good teachers, new activities, games and nice people everywhere. I think this kind of summer camp should be arranged every year."

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