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Christian college in Pakistan wins legal battle for independence from political interference

Posted on: May 16, 2019 3:50 PM
First year students attend an induction at Edwardes Anglican College in Peshawar
Photo Credit: Edwardes College

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] A Pakistan court has ruled in favour of the Church of Pakistan’s attempt to retain independence for an Anglican college in Peshawar, after the Moderator of the Church took legal action to defend it against a government take over.

Interference in Edwardes College from the Governor of Peshawar over the past few months had forced the Bishop of Peshawar, Humphrey Peters, to defend its independence and its governance and budgets from being revised. The High Court ruling this week blocked the local government’s attempts to interfere in College affairs.

He said, “This is the only remaining Anglican institution in Pakistan. It’s good news that we have won the case in the High Court and we thank God for that. All the time we have been fighting to secure the Anglican identity of the College. We are trying to retain and maintain the identity of the Church in Pakistan in these difficult situations.”

Edwardes College is one of the oldest Christian institutions in the province and was established in 1900 by the Church Missionary Society (CMS), when it was known as Edwardes Church Mission College. It is a private college, owned and sponsored by the Diocese of Peshawar, part of the Church of Pakistan and registered with the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the University of Peshawar and the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education.

The College had not been taken over by the government during a wave of nationalisation in the 1970s. However, it has been under threat from a take-over for many years after the Pershawar governor set up a Board of Governors for the College without any legal backing.

Following a High Court judgement in favour of the Church of Pakistan last year, the Bishop had restored the College Board of Governors, but the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been fighting the judgement and continuing to attempt to influence college affairs and management.

The Church hopes this week’s High Court ruling will mark the end of the battle for independence and protection for this one remaining Christian institution in Pakistan.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon said, “I’m delighted to hear about the ruling in favour of the Church in Pakistan over maintaining the Christian tradition and independence of Edwardes’s College. I would want to commend this Judge for standing for justice as a matter of principle, whether for Muslims or non-Muslims as enjoined in Qur’an 4:135.

“As brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion we must stand together to support one another in places where the Church continues to courageously hold out the light of Christ, despite injustice and persecution.”

The Church of Pakistan is a united Church comprising a number of denominations. In addition to being a full member of the Anglican Communion, it is also a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council.