Posted by: Titus Presler | October 30, 2012

Opportunities available to hear about Edwardes and higher education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

News from Pakistan often prompts horror and despair, whether within Pakistan or around the world.  The news testifies to very real crises, but our response should be engagement and support, not washing our hands in hopelessness.

My hope is that the Malala Moment will be extended to a Malala Hour, at least, when people realize that education for girls and women needs support as they reflect on the Taliban’s shooting of Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old campaigner for girls’ education.

Equally I hope that there may be a Rimsha Moment in solidarity with Rimsha Masih, the 11-year-old Christian girl in Islamabad falsely accused of blasphemy for, supposedly, burning pages of the Quran.  Solidarity with Rimsha also means solidarity with Christians and other religious minorities under pressure in Pakistan.

Edwardes College is playing important roles in the education of young women of all religions in a co-educational environment and in supporting the Christian community through education.  It’s good to be in the USA for a couple of weeks to be with family, but there are also lots of engagements with churches on behalf of Edwardes College.

Folks who might be interested in hearing first-hand about the work of Edwardes during future trips are invited to be in touch with me on this blog or via Facebook or e-mail.  The following news item on the College website might prime your pump:

Principal promotes Edwardes in numerous USA engagements

Currently in the USA over the Eid-al-Azha holiday period, Principal Dr. Titus Presler is promoting Edwardes College to audiences previously unaware of the College’s contribution to higher education and tolerance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On this trip the focus is on groups of the Episcopal Church, the USAmerican branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.  Edwardes was founded under Anglican auspices, and the Pakistani branch of Anglicanism joined with three other denominations in 1970 to form the ecumenical Church of Pakistan, in which the Diocese of Peshawar is Edwardes’ sponsoring body.

On Monday, 22 October 2012, Dr. Presler gave an address, “The Mission of Edwardes College in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Today,” at the weekly Forum of Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, the largest of the seminaries of the Episcopal Church.  He also met over lunch with the Missionary Society of the seminary.

The talk, which was a template for similar addresses elsewhere, focused on the College’s vital contribution in education at a time when universities are challenged, in interfaith relations in a time of polarization, and in gender relations when the situation of girls and women is a concern.

On Wednesday, 24 October, he gave a similar address to over 100 people gathered for the Wonderful Wednesday midweek forum at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, a parish which has several thousand members.  The event was organized by the Rev. Dr. William Sachs, Director of the parish’s Center for Interfaith Reconciliation, which has been active in Muslim-Christian mutual engagement in Virginia and throughout the USA and who hopes to visit Edwardes in 2013.

Among the attendees at St. Stephen’s was Marianne Vermeer, who spent three years in administration at Forman Christian College in Lahore, and whose husband Robert Johnson currently heads the Friends of Forman Christian College in the USA.  As at other venues, the talk was accompanied by a picture show of current life at Edwardes.

Also on Wednesday the Principal met with the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, one of the largest of the Episcopal Church, and addressed the diocesan and staff and others over lunch. The diocesan event was organized by Buck Blanchard, who directs the diocese’s many forms of outreach worldwide and who plans to visit Edwardes in early 2013.

On Sunday, 28 October, the Principal preached and offered a forum at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital, where he had been made an honorary canon theologian in 2009.  Simultaneously, Dr. Presler’s wife the Rev. Canon Jane Butterfield preached and led a forum at one of the larger congregations of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, St. Andrew’s Church in State College, home to Pennsylvania State University.

Also in Harrisburg Dr. Presler was interviewed about Edwardes for a forthcoming publication by Joyce Davis, President of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg.  The Pennsylvania engagements were arranged by Bishop  Nathan Baxter, who was formerly Dean of the Cathedral of St. Peter and  St. Paul, otherwise known at the National Cathedral, in Washington, and at St. Stephen’s Cathedral the Principal was hosted by Dean Churchill Pinder. An extensive article about the Principal’s prospective visit had appeared in the city’s newspaper, The Patriot-News.

On Saturday, 3 November, the Principal will, at the invitation of Bishop Tom Ely, address the convention of the Diocese of Vermont, the annual gathering which draws lay delegates and all clergy from the 48 congregations in the state.  On Sunday, 4 November, he will address a forum at St. Luke’s Church, Darien, one of the largest congregations in the Diocese of Connecticut, another of the New England states.

At each venue brochures about Edwardes are distributed, along with the Principal’s business card.  Attendees have expressed interest in supporting Edwardes through providing financial aid for women students and minority students and assisting with a residence hall for women students.

As discussed at the College’s Executive Committee meeting in October, one result of a talks the Principal gave at churches early in 2012 were donations totaling $4,400 for student financial aid.

“While Edwardes is well known in the UK, we are just beginning to spread the word in the USA,” Dr. Presler said in commenting on the current trip.  “The turmoil and polarization of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa make many people despair, but when they hear about what we are doing in enhancing educational quality and nurturing interfaith understanding they are encouraged and want to be a part of it.  Churches have been the focus of this trip, and in future we will include other types of organizations as well.”

Networking with Edwardes alumni in the USA is a pressing need, the Principal said, noting that Institutional Advancement Officer Bilal Ahmad will have a vital role to play in organizing that effort and in following up on contacts that have been made.

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