Church of Pakistan Bishop Azad Marshall (center) with Bishop Alwin Samuel (left) demanding protection of Christian communal properties at Lahore Press Club on Jan. 4. (Photo courtesy of Kross Konnection)
Christians across the nation rejoiced when the Church of Pakistan regained control of the oldest missionary education institution in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“We praise and thank God that the Edwardes College matter has been solved. I sincerely wish to thank my beloved prime minister [Imran Khan], who has always stood with the minorities and with the Christian community,” said Shunila Ruth, parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
She further announced the appointment of a new principal, a Christian, in her Facebook post on June 4.
“It’s a New Year gift for the whole community. The church was out of college management and our stance was totally over. It was hard convincing the government. Now we have 75 percent control over the college. The hold has strengthened our identity,” said Church of Pakistan Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar.
The bishop had led the protests with a view to restoring management of the institution by church authorities since June 2021 when the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed handing over the management of the college to the local government.
Edwardes College Peshawar was founded in 1900 by the Church Missionary Society and transferred to the Lahore Diocesan Trust Association in 1956.
Our schools were never meant for profit. Christians remain marginalized because of this nationalization
The nationalization of church schools and colleges has been a major concern for both Catholic and Protestant communities since the government took over missionary institutes in Punjab and Sindh provinces in 1972. It later denationalized them between 1985 and 2004 without offering any compensation.
Hours before Ruth’s announcement, four Church of Pakistan bishops held a press conference in Lahore demanding the liberation of all Christian educational institutes.
“Our schools were never meant for profit. Christians remain marginalized because of this nationalization. It has led to the commercialization of education that resulted in the denial of quality yet inexpensive education to poor and vulnerable communities,” said Bishop Azad Marshall, moderator of the Church of Pakistan.
According to Church of Pakistan Bishop Alwin Samuel of Sialkot Diocese, eight church-run schools and Murray Graduate College in Sialkot remain nationalized.
“Efforts have been made to include the surrounding church property, which has no connection with educational activities, in the nationalized college. We request the authorities to respect our rights,” he said.