Pakistan: Christian nurse under fire over Muslim prayer room

The Christian chief warden of a nurses’ hall of residence in Lahore is at risk of attack from a fanatical Muslim colleague, warns CLAAS UK.

Mrs Purses Gulzereen is chief warden at the hall for women training at the nursing school of the Children’s Hospital, where she is a senior lecturer. For the last six months, Mrs Purses has been embroiled in a conflict with a senior trainee doctor, Dr Naila of the Rehaim Yar Khan district, who has been living in the hall for the last two years.

Dr Naila, who is believed to have links to some fanatical Islamic organisations, demanded around eight months ago that the 400 Muslim girls living at the hall be granted their own special prayer room. With the consent of the hall administration, Mrs Purses provided a large hall where the Muslim students could offer their prayers five times a day and hold religious gatherings.

The Christian girls in the hall, numbering around 80, subsequently requested their own prayer room and, with the consent of the administration, Mrs Purses offered them a small room, which she furnished with money from her personal funds and also provided Bibles and other related reading material.

Dr Naila, however, reportedly became aggressive towards the Christian girls and hall staff after they were granted their own prayer space, but especially towards Mrs Purses.

In particular, Dr Naila wrote letters to the administration complaining that Mrs Purses was granting special favours to the Christian members of staff and that she was using the Christian prayer room to spread Christianity around the hall, convert the Muslim girls to Christianity, and westernise the hall’s Islamic character.

Fanatical Muslim students reportedly came together with Dr Naila in acting aggressively after the establishment of the Christian prayer room. The hospital administration responded by ordering Mrs Purses to close down the Christian prayer room but she argued that if the Christian prayer room were to be closed down, the Muslim prayer room should also be closed. The administration took the decision to close both prayer rooms.

Dr Naila then reportedly misled local newspapers by telling them the Christian chief warden of the hall had closed down a mosque and stopped Muslim students and staff from offering their prayers, thereby preventing them from fulfilling their religious duties. She also repeated her previous allegation that Mrs Purses had tried to spread Christianity among the students at the hall.

Meanwhile, Dr Naila distributed Muslim literature to the students, including the Christians, whom she invited to embrace Islam. When the hospital administration told Dr Naila to stop such activities at Mrs Purses’ behest, Dr Naila suspected the chief warden’s intervention and started a campaign for her dismissal, as well as that of two Christian assistant wardens. She also reportedly started telling the Muslim nurses that all hall staff must be Muslims and that Islam was in danger under Christian management. The hospital administration reportedly became alarmed because of Dr Naila’s close links with fanatical Islamic organisations.

Two Christian assistant wardens were subsequently dismissed from their posts and two Muslim nurses appointed in their place. The administration also reportedly want to replace Mrs Purses as chief warden but have yet to find a candidate who matches her in suitability, seeing as she has managed the hall since it first opened.

Mrs Purses says she has received threatening calls from unidentified individuals telling her to let the Muslim students have their prayer room back. The hospital administration has told her it cannot help her in this matter and it has warned her that an Islamic organisation is on the look out for her.

Mrs Purses has contacted CLAAS for help in finding a solution to the conflict. She fears particularly for the safety of her husband and three children. The CLAAS legal team has assured Mrs Purses of its help.