St. Matthew's Church, Nathia gali Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dubai: A Muslim family has looked after a church in Pakistan for over a 100 years now. A lone caretaker, rings the church bell, even though there are no Christians left in the area. Social media users have commended the family’s efforts, against the sectarian backdrop of Pakistan.

“The weather has wreaked havoc on the church, but it still stands in all its grandeur,” caretaker Waheed Murad told the Pakistani news website Dawn.com.

Built entirely out of cedar wood, the quaint St. Matthew’s church is located among the hills of Nathia Gali, in the Hazara District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It was designed during the British colonial era, by Colonel Hope Waddell Kelsall. Murad, told the German news agency Ruptly: “The church was built in 1914, so it is 104 years old... and our family has served for almost a 100 years.”

Guarding a faith

Murad is the third generation of caretakers in his family. He has served the church for 17 years, his father for 45 years, and his grandfather for 35 years before that. Murad explained why he chose his particular path in an interview with the BBC.

“I am a Muslim. But the church is a place of worship. It can be of any religion. To look after it is our duty. ...I am holding onto my religion while I work serving the church, and I will continue doing it.”

Netizens are glad

Pakistani social media users were moved and appreciated the gesture of unity.

Sarah Omar posted on a Facebook comment thread: “Saw this church when we visited Nathia Gali last year. It was getting renovated and I could only see Muslims there. So proud.”

Tweep @le_me_taimoor posted: “St. Matthew’s Church is in a rural area of Pakistan, where there are hardly any Christians.For the last 100 years it has been looked after by a local Muslim family. Faith in humanity.”

Facebook user Zaynab Saleem Khurram posted: “I have been fortunate to go inside this place. Such peace.”

While previous Pakistan governments did not provide financial support, the current Imran Khan-led government, true to its word about protecting minorities, took over and provided funds. This has allowed for more maintenance work to be done, Murad said in an interview with German news agency Ruptly.

In the same Pakistan, that was divided over the reversal of the death sentence of Asia Bibi for blasphemy, this story is a telling portrait of humanity that has survived the toll of time.