In Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province, Muslim villagers are raising funds to help their poor Christian neighbors build a church.
The initiative was begun shortly before Easter by a group of Muslims from a village in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s textile-manufacturing hub.
“There is a tiny Christian population in the village — only 20 families — who have no place to worship,” Fr. Aftab James, the local priest, told Anadolu Agency.
“Only days before Easter, the initiative was taken up by our Muslim brothers,” he said.
According to Fr. James, Christians of the village had to use someone’s home — or some other site — to perform prayers on holy days.
“Muslim residents of the town, however, offered to build us a chapel as a gift,” he said.
“We are thankful to our Muslim brothers for this wonderful gesture. It makes us feel proud,” the priest said.
The local Christian community is now very excited that they will soon have a church in the village.
“Before we had to rent or borrow a house in which to hold Christmas, Easter and other festivities,” Faryad Masih, a Christian laborer, told Anadolu Agency.
“But now we will soon have our own chapel,” he said.
“At first I didn’t believe it when Muslim community leaders said they would build us a chapel,” he recalled.
“But to my surprise, construction work began within one month of the initial announcement,” a visibly excited Faryad said.
“Our community’s longtime dream is now coming true,” he said.
Christians, Pakistan’s largest religious minority, account for roughly 3 percent of the country’s total population of some 180 million.
Most of them reside in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, where they are mainly involved in the sanitation, nursing and teaching sectors.