Punjab: Muslims fund the construction of a Catholic church
by Kamran Chaudhry

The new church is being built in Khalsabad, a village near Gojra. The mud chapel used by eight local Catholic families was destroyed in the last monsoon. Muslim farmers and businesses gave financial support. For a Catholic clergyman, "This is a dialogue of life," even though Pakistan is famous for its violence.

Gojra (AsiaNews) – In a show of generosity, Muslim farmers have contributed to the fundraising efforts of Catholics who are building a church in Khalsabad, a village (chak in Urdu), near Gojra, Punjab province.

Eight Christian families live in the village, and their mud chapel was swept away in the last monsoon rains. Given the option of praying at home, they chose to build a church and asked their neighbours for help.

"I learnt about the project in a community meeting last month,” said Dilawar Hussain, a Muslim shopkeeper. “A church is also a house of Allah; praying is what matters. We worship the same God.”

Hussain donated 10,000 rupees (US$ 95) for the construction of the new place of worship, whilst another local businessman gave 30,000 rupees to the village committee responsible for project.

Thus far, the boundary walls of the new church have been erected.

"This is a dialogue of life," said Fr Aftab James Paul about the donations. The clergyman is assistant parish priest at the St Fidelis Church in Khushpur. Khalsabad is one of the 56 villages he visits as part of his pastoral outreach.

"Another Muslim donated 2,000 rupees on Easter Sunday," noted Fr Paul, who also led the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue in Faisalabad for nine years.

This is not the first time that Muslims help in building a Catholic place of worship. In 2005, they helped out in the construction of a church in Gojra Tehnsil sub-district.

Still, the area is also infamous for a 2009 incident when, following blasphemy accusations, ten Christians were killed, seven burnt alive, and four churches destroyed.

Unfortunately, "We have too many prejudices,” the priest said, “and let the actions of a few be blamed on all followers of Islam."