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Christian centre needs funds for revival

June 17, 2017

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– Dawn
– Dawn

SAHIWAL: A 25-year-old Christian community centre located at Isa Nagri needs immediate attention of the provincial and district governments.

The centre was developed in 1992 to promote collective social and cultural gatherings of more than 100,000 Christians living across the district. But lack of financial resources and community-led initiatives has made the three-and-a-half kanal centre dysfunctional.

The local Christian community demands allocation of financial resources for making it an interactive place for the youth. The community demands that different vocational courses be started at the centre.

In 1992, the Punjab government had developed two Christian community centres – one at Gujar Mohallah and other in Isa Nagri.

The tehsil council record shows the Gujar Mohallah centre was later transformed into a church with the consensus of the local community. But the centre situated at Isa Nagri remained functional. It was a planned centre to be used not only for social, cultural and religious gatherings but it also worked as a vocational training centre for [Christian] boys and girls.

The local community decided that the control of the centre would not be handed over to any church and it would be run independently with [financial] assistance of the district government.

There are five dominant churches - ARP, Catholic, Protestant, Gospel and Salvation Army - here but it was agreed that the centre would be developed on the lines of a vocational institute.

It was learnt that former minorities MNA Nasir Mahmood Khokkar had provided Rs500,000 grant to build six rooms, boundary wall, and four washrooms at that time. After construction of building, embroidery, stitching and nursing classes were started for Christian youth.

In 1992, then Municipal Committee chairman Haji Shaikh Muhammad Chohan nominated Nasir Pervaiz, minority councillor, as its caretaker.

PML-N minorities wing district president Saima Bhatti said at that time the district government handed over the centre to an individual and did not take its control. “With the passage of time the centre had gone dysfunctional and all its resources depleted.”

The locals say the centre has [allegedly] become personal property of the minority councillor. Nasir Pervaiz is still the caretaker of the [dysfunctional] centre.

This correspondence visited the centre and found its building needed renovation along with a boundary wall.

During March this year, Saima Bhatti moved an application with signatures of the community leaders to the chief minister, seeking control of the local government. The application says the centre should be run with allocated funds of the municipal corporation.

Dawn learnt that the chief minister marked it [application] to the Sahiwal DC for establishment of a stitching centre and a dispensary as per letter NO DS(North)-CMO17-NM/367.135939 dated March 21.

The DC was asked to submit report with immediate effect. “Two months passed, no report was sent by the DC to CM House,” Ms Bhatti claimed.

Nasir Pervaiz said: “I was made caretaker 25 years ago and I am voluntarily doing the job. The centre is not my personal property.” Seemi Jan, a resident of Isa Nagri, said a vocational training institute, an embroidery centre, and a dispensary must be established [at the centre] for Christian youth.

Saima Bhatti demanded that the district and provincial governments must allocate funds for the centre. She said the management control [of the centre] must be handed over to municipal corporation as per the original plan.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2017