This is apropos the news that minorities in Pakistan are permitted to study their respective Holy Books because, in June, the Punjab government made the teachings of the Holy Quran mandatory for Muslim students in universities. This news came to the fore when there was a sense of disquietudeamong non-Muslim studentsin universities that if Holy Quran is made mandatory, how we (minorities) will study it as we know nothing about the teachings of the Holy Quran?
Although the government’s decision of making these teachings obligatory is commendable, for minorities, this arisesa bazillion of questions. For Christians,for instance, would the teachers or professors who would come to teach the Holy Bible, have an HEC-recognized degree? Which seminary is there whose degree HEC recognizes?Is there any university with whom Bible colleges or Christian seminaries are affiliated? Is there any University that publishes Christian Research Journals which discuss legal, social, and economic, etc. dilemmas?
These are some very serious queries which need to be answered. For the answers, I interviewed Wajid Bhatti, a Ph.D. Scholarof Pakistan Study with area of Research Church Mission Society (CMS) Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History at Quaid-i-Azam University. He proposed and posited a solution for these neglected queries. He said, we only need a Christian university. All Bible colleges and Christian seminaries of Pakistan ought to be under that university in which religious, ethical, economic, legal, and social education ought to be given and further, thatuniversityshould be registered with HEC which means that thatparticular university would be directly under the auspice of government and would be autonomous. There used to be a Christian research journal named Al-Mushir whose editor was Prof. Yusuf Jalil but now, unfortunately, it does not exist.Many of us don’t even know about the journal that either it exists or not.
If we want to promote religious education at school and college level, then we are in dire need of aChristian university in Pakistan. If home-based seminaries are affiliated with the university, then HEC will automatically verify the degrees. By doing so, automatically the degrees of priests would be verified by HEC and there would be no room for any skepticism.Further Wajid Bhatti elaborated that, on the contrary, if such an initiative is taken, it will give birth to a host of problems such as:(i)Denominationalconflict; (ii) Syllabus issue as there are 2 major sects i.e. Roman Catholics and Protestants. There are other sects also but these two are the most prominent; (iii) Clergy clashes at the upper level between these two sects on various grounds; and (iv) Funding problem.
In order to address denominational conflict, he advocated that separate departments with their namesof different denominations can be the ultimate solution. For example, the Catholic department and further sub-departments of Catholics, the Protestant department and further sub-departments of Protestants, Anglican department, Lutheran department, Presbyterian department, Methodist department, etc. By doing so, on the one hand, it will not only resolve the dilemma of the denomination but on the other hand, it will also represent the respective denominations individually.
For example, if someone wants some information pertaining to Biblical philosophy, he would be directed towards the Lutheran department. For this, he suggested that experts and intellectuals can play a vital role as they can spearhead efficiently and effectively. He contended that it will also resolve the syllabus issue as departments would be free to call the shots regarding the syllabus. Clergy clashes can be resolved via in-person discourses between different departments. For example, argumentation regarding divorce between Protestants and Catholics can be resolved through meetings specifically conducted for this purpose. To address the funding problem, he asserted that respective denominations will fund the university and students could be given concession in their fee for easy study.
There are profusions of benefits for minorities by forming a Christian university. For instance, our (Christian’s) social issues would be addressed, Christian Research Journals and further new universities will be built, education regarding Christian architecture and Gothic architecture will be furnished, awareness about Eastern and Western Churches history will disseminate, Biblical archeology can embellish Pakistan’s name at international level as Pakistan is replete with archeological heritages that can be inscribed in the list of UNESCO, Biblical philosophy will succor in no influence of others on us and our own philosopher’s influence on us, Biblical law which entails Christian marriage law because most of the time Muslim law and Christian law are intertwined which ultimately become a cause of manipulation, theological study, and inheritance law.
Apart from this, it will also help in fetching scholarships for pastors to conduct further research, and then the pastors will become proper professors to teach as per the HEC criterion. It will re-invigorate the element of Mission. For example, just like CMS was working in the colonial period. Wajid Bhatti further contended that degrees in Christian leadership and Marriage Counseling would be given. For example, in Western countries, the couple who is about to get married is trained and counseled for 6 months. They are mentally prepared and after that, they are permitted to get married. Unfortunately, we do not have leaders for such counseling which is why divorce in our society is becoming rapidly common.
Further, one thing we need to understand is that pastors cannot resolve every problem single-handedly. For example, a sole pastor cannot handle legal matters, auditing, and accountancy. For this, we need experts and professionals in these fields.That is why; degrees of different disciplines would be offered, PhDs would be offered in order to pursue the principle of the right person for the right job. There are very few Christians who are holding PhDs and are serving in different sectors such as Dr. Rohama Gill serving in Fatima Jinnah Women University, Dr. Farzand Masih, a Ph.D. in Archaeology;Wajid Bhatti himself is doing a Ph.D. from Quaid-i-Azam University.
According to Wajid Bhatti, there is anavalanche of Churches whose architecture is that of anantediluvian design. We have no such proficient builders andrenovators who can re-build as per that antique design. For this, architectural education can prove to be a quantum-leap. Inter-alia, Biblical philosophy, Eastern and Western Biblical Church History and Biblical law will also be included in the teachings. The social issue regarding forced conversion would properly be observed, cases relevant to 295-C would be observed and religious representatives or board- not political – from every religion can come forth for discussion andmull over strategies to counter such issue via legislation.
He emphasized especially on inheritance law that lawyers do not know fully about it. He stated that most of the time lawyers didn’t know how to deal with a divorce case; what Bible says about that and what Christian inheritance law says about it. For this, research and degree in inheritance law will be a breakthrough. It will ultimately produce Christian lawyers to deal with such matters in the realm of Bible and Christian inheritance law. He deemed it as an important most issue because the Hindu Marriage Act has been passed, Sikh Marriage Act has been passed but there is no Christian Marriage Act. Why?
Wajid Bhatti had a full-fledged plan for this. He explained that in order to do so, there must be separate departments so that there would be no such problem of the denomination because there would be a chief that would be elected by taking the oath. For example, if a department for the comparative study is established, then there can be a dialogue among different scholars which will also help in interfaith harmony. Apart from this, there would be a department for Christian ethics, Cultural studies, international peace-building.
The government needs to pay special heed to this because this will prove to be a solace for minorities. Another important thing is, those who censure it should know its perks and privileges first because it is incumbent and need not politicize the matter. Last but not the least, it will not only benefit Christians or other minorities but Pakistan also as a whole.