01/24/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Peshawar High Court okays church building inside university

by Qaiser Felix
A petition filed by Muslim students tried to stop the construction but the judges rejected it on the grounds that Islam and Pakistan’s constitution guarantee religious freedom and respect for minorities. For Christians the ruling will promote interfaith dialogue.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Peshawar High Court yesterday gave the green light to the construction of a church inside Peshawar’s non-denominational university, thus rejecting a petition filed by two Muslim students. The ruling was welcomed by the Christian community which sees it as “a positive example of promoting interfaith harmony in the country”.

Last January 11, two students from the Agriculture University of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) filed a petition before the High Court to stop the building of a church because it “was done without the consent of the institution and can be the cause of further demands by other religious minorities.”

Judges thought otherwise and authorised the church. In making their ruling they stated that Islam guarantees total religious freedom for minorities and there are no legal obstacles to building places of worship.

Chief Justice Tariq Pervez Khan added that Pakistan’s constitution protects religious minorities. He also noted that Muslims can build mosques and spread their faith in non Muslim countries.

“This is good news for Christians,” said activist Nadeem Anthony. “The petition filed by the two young men is representative of an intolerant mindset and a destructive approach to coexistence”.

In an official statement released today, the Christian Progressive Movement (CPM) expressed its satisfaction for the court’s decision.

“The High Court’s decision will promote interfaith harmony not only in the North-West Frontier Province but also across the country”.

NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani, who laid the church’s foundation stone last December 19, also announced 3 million rupees for the building work.

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