A 141-year-old village in Samundri Tehsil of Faisalabad district is a unique example of peace, harmony and love between the Muslim and Christian communities. Khushpur, which translates into ‘happy settlement’, was founded by Father Felix.
In 1903, Father Berna Dean established a church in the village and helped few Muslim families migrate from Sialkot to settle in the hamlet.
Currently, the hamlet boasts a population of 7,000 people majority of which are Christians. It is also known as the Rome of Pakistan.
Adherents of both, Christianity and Islam, congratulate each other on their respective festivals and celebrate it together in a rare display of interfaith harmony in the province.
This Eid the Christian community bought gifts, cut cake and attended dinners with their Muslim friends and neighbours, Father Francis Lazarces who is the head of St Fidelis Church told The Express Tribune.
“Churchgoers held a special prayer for the longevity of life and prosperity of fellow Muslims,” he added.
Traditionally sweets are exchanged at festivals and Kheer is made with sugarcane juice to celebrate the occasion.
Late Bishop John Joseph had built a mosque for the Muslim community in Khushpur.
Father Francis highlighted that the church bells go silent in respect of prayer calls by the imam of the local mosque.
“There have been no riots in the history of this settlement,” he proudly exclaimed.
Haji Muhammad Latif, who is the prayer leader of the mosque, said his ancestors were entrusted with leading prayers three generations ago.
“We also cut Christmas cakes alongside our Christian brothers and enjoy Easter with them,” he said, adding, “Our families mingle with each other and celebrate happy occasions.”
“We ask the Almighty to let Christians live happily and thrive in our homeland,” the imam prayed.
He further told The Express Tribune that Christians in the village participate in Eid Milad-un-Nabi processions and show reverence towards Prophet Muhammad.
On two occasions, antisocial elements tried to incite communal hatred, he revealed.
“One night some antisocial elements desecrated the pages of the Quran behind the mosque to spark a riot, I complained to the Christians leaders and kept it a secret to avoid an eventuality,” said the imam.
“When this attempt failed, some people threw garbage at the main entrance of the masjid to instigate Muslims but we silently lifted the trash in the middle of the night to fail these antisocial elements once again.”
A village resident, Shafiq Masih, said that the two religious communities share a graveyard to bury their deceased family members.
“We take part in each other’s funeral prayers without any hesitation. The whole community performs the final rites of the departed souls with great reverence,” Masih confidently asserted.
He also said the communities distributed ration equally among poor as pandemic served a blow to their means of livelihood.
Marriages, too, are celebrated together. Sumera Bibi, a Muslim woman, remarked she gave her personal belongings and cosmetics to a Christian bride in her neighborhood as an expression of love.
A local farmer, Akhlaq Ahmad, said he buys cotton seeds from a Christian peasant for spring sowing and then donated saplings to encourage understanding and harmony in the close-knit community.
The strong bond of brotherhood, care, wisdom and affection makes Khushpur a truly ‘Khush’ (happy) village in Pakistan.