Islamabad: In Pakistan's northeastern Punjab province, Muslim villagers are raising funds and contributing labor to help their poor Christian neighbors build a church. The initiative began 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.
According to Fr. James, Christians of the village had to use someone’s home, or some other sites, 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.
Christians, Pakistan’s largest religious minority, account for roughly 3 percent of the country's total population of some 180 million.
The local community has already raised 150,000 Pakistani rupees (around $1,500) towards the total cost of the church's construction, estimated at some 700,000 rupees ($7,000).
Mian Ejaz, one of the Muslim fundraisers, said that additional funds would eventually be raised to finish the chapel, which would include a medium-sized prayer hall and another room.
"We have four mosques in the village but no place of worship for Christians, as most of them are poor and lack the funds to build a church on their own," he added.
"We want to tell the world that Pakistan isn’t a country of extremists, who are only a small minority, but a country of people who believe in religious tolerance and harmony," Ejaz said.