Rawalpindi: Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi city is unique in the way it promotes interfaith harmony.
It has a mosque and a church on its premises, and the call for prayer and church bells chime side by side.
Sidra Mashee has been working in the hospital as a nurse for the past 20 years. She believes the institute contributes greatly to peace and interfaith harmony as it has staff and patients from different religions.
“Health and education have been the core areas of focus on the Indian subcontinent [since] British rule in India,” she says.
The hospital was built in 1946 by the Christian mission of Philadelphia at Murree Road Rawalpindi, but after a couple of years it was handed over to the Holy Family Sisters. The hospital has since gone from having a few a doctors and patients to becoming one of the major teaching hospitals in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
A few years after Pakistan came into existence (1947), the hospital was handed over to the national government.
It was taken over by the provincial Punjab government in 1977 and affiliated with Rawalpindi Medical College to become a teaching hospital.
Holy Family Hospital was granted autonomy in June 1998 under Punjab Medical and Health Institutions Act 1986 and, on July 1, 1998, it was declared an autonomous hospital.
For the staff
Simon Sarfaraz, who is the Father at the Holy Parish Church at Satellite Town Rawalpindi, told Gulf News: “Actually, this chapel was built in 1946 when this hospital was constructed because the hospital staff needed a place where they can perform their mass.”
Holy Family Hospital represents the interfaith harmony in the country, Father Sarfaraz says.
“There is a church, there is a mosque, and there are patients who belong to different faiths. There are Christian and Muslim doctors and nurses, but they have just one mission and they care and cure the patients with passion and dedication.”
Dr Arshad Ali Sabir, Medical Superintended at Holy Family said, “It was designed by an Italian architect, a prisoner of the Second World War. The hospital has passed through many construction phases and now there is a lot of extension, but the old building, which has the church, is standing tall in the heart of the city.”
He added that the church is a masterpiece of architecture and design. The old building was constructed in a way that the aerial view of the building looks like a cross.
Babu Sajid Amin Khokhar has been associated with the Holy Family Church for many years.
“Every Sunday, more than 1,000 Catholic Christians attend this mass, including the hospital staff,” he says.
Kiran William has worked at the Holy Family Hospital for ten years, and says: “Holy Family Hospital is a blessing for the citizens of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, because it outfits the needs of the poor community.”
“We are proud that being Catholics, we are playing a vital role in the progress and prosperity of this country, and the Holy Family Hospital is proof of our positive role in Pakistan,” she adds.
The hospital is now ranked as a Medical College. It is among the leading teaching hospitals in Rawalpindi city.
It is associated with the Rawalpindi Medical College, one of the most prestigious medical colleges in Pakistan.
Gabriel Adnan, a student at Rawalpindi Medical College, said: “I am lucky that I have gotten the admission to this medical college, and this is a sacred place for me. I attend the Sunday morning mass regularly, I am also a member of the chapel choir since I was admitted to the college.”
Tariq Niazi, Assistant Medical Superintendent of the Hospital, said, “There are a few hundred Catholic[s] who are working in this hospital. There are highly trained nurses, doctors and premedical staff who have been taking care of patients round the clock. All the time they are ready to serve with a smile.”
Niazi says, “It is really a matter of [pride] for me that the way we, both Christian and Muslim staff, are contributing to this hospital.”
“This hospital is the best example of peaceful coexistence of all the religions and cooperation for the well-being of humankind.”