“This significant grant to Edwardes, the only Anglican college in Pakistan, recognizes the vital role our colleges are playing in non-Christian societies: modeling an embracing of diversity for the common good, which is part of the DNA of their Anglican identity,” said the Rev. Canon James G Callaway, general secretary of Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion.
“This grant of 300 million Pakistani rupees will assist Edwardes with the academic programs and physical facilities vital to the degree-awarding status that will enhance our educational contribution to the province and the nation,” said the Rev. Canon Titus Presler, the school’s principal.
An undergraduate and graduate institution founded by Anglicans, Edwardes College is located in the troubled border region of northwestern Pakistan.
“Amid the extremist violence of the region, it is heartening that this province in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has expressed such confidence in the higher education offered by a church institution,” Presler said. “Lots of bad news comes from this area, but there is ground for hope.”
Presler expressed gratitude to Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the Higher Education Secretariat, and the Higher Education Regulatory Authority of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Presler said provincial officials had consulted with the college’s management team for about nine months in preparing the grant, which was announced on Nov. 16 and received in January. The funds will support faculty higher studies, enhance library resources, improve scientific laboratories, and expand academic programs.
“Students and the province as a whole will benefit from this grant as it leads to quality enhancement,” said Professor Kalim Ullah, vice principal, who has served Edwardes for 36 years. “Edwardes is a cradle of academic learning and a community of interfaith understanding. We try to develop the whole person and reach out to the wider community in these difficult times in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
The Rt. Rev. Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, Bishop of Peshawar, also expressed his thanks.
“Edwardes College is one of our major institutions, and we are delighted that the province is offering this boost at a turning-point in the college’s history,” he said. The diocese is the college’s sponsoring body.
The oldest institution of higher education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Edwardes was founded in 1900 by the Church Missionary Society. Since 1956 it has operated under the auspices of the local church, which in 1970 joined with Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians to form the Church of Pakistan, a full member of the Anglican Communion.
“Edwardes is a church institution but not a Christian enclave,” Presler said. He added that 92 percent of the 2,950 students are Muslim, 7 percent are Christian, and 1 percent are Hindu and Sikh, with similar percentages among the 105 faculty members. Many students come from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border, districts disrupted by insurgency and military operations. Women, and socially disadvantaged groups like religious minorities, comprise 8 percent of the students and 17 percent of the faculty, and the college is trying to increase those proportions.
“Edwardes reflects the wider society, every aspect of our work is inter-religious, and we have a particular vocation to develop interfaith community in a polarized environment,” Presler said.
The college recently hosted a gathering of Faith Friends, a Peshawar group that brings together Sunnis, Shias, various Christian denominations, Sikhs, and Hindus.
A missiologist and priest of the Episcopal Church, Presler served as a missionary in Zimbabwe, a parish pastor, academic dean at General Theological Seminary in New York City, and president of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, before joining Edwardes.
The Integrity Project, a college initiative launched this year, has attracted provincial attention in its efforts to build personal character and social responsibility in students.
While Edwardes College is self-supporting, like any institution of higher education it seeks extra support for special initiatives. Financial aid for poor students is a perennial need.
“Think of Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl in Islamabad falsely accused of blasphemy, and now freed,” Presler said. ‘Think of Malala Yousafzai, the Muslim girl campaigning for girls’ education who was shot by the Taliban in Swat.”
Scholarships for the college’s 200 Christian students and 230 women students assist two communities that have been historically disadvantaged in Pakistan.
Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion, an official network of the Communion, draws 130 Anglican-related institutions of higher learning around the globe into closer relationship and cooperation. CUAC’s Triennial Conference, hosted in rotating locations by local chapters across five continents, brings representatives of the network’s diverse populations together to learn from, and about, each other. It also offers opportunities to observe how Anglican identity and ethos are lived in each particular local community.
The next CUAC Triennial will meet in Seoul, South Korea, in 2014.
Photo of biology class at Edwardes College courtesy of CUAC