ASIA/PAKISTAN-Education without hatred or prejudice: Commission's appeal "Justice and Peace"

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - No to bigotry in schools, no to the imposition of Islamic studies to non-Muslim students: is the appeal launched by the Commission "Justice and Peace" of the Episcopal Conference of Pakstan focusing its attention on one of the key issues for the future of the country, the education of young generations. In a message sent to Fides, the Director of the Commission, a Catholic layman, Peter Jacob, notes that, to really ensure the right to education enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, the country needs to eradicate hatred, bigotry, prejudice from the education curriculum and ensure respect for human rights in education policy.
"Various budget plans over the past 30 years have failed because they ignored the fundamental rights plan. In addition, literacy initiatives have been marred by corruption and inefficiency", explains Jacob to Fides.
The Commission reports the status of religious minorities, recalling that Article 20 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and Article 22 emphasizes that "no one is obliged to receive religious education of a different faith from his/hers". This article, says Jacob, is ignored in the case of hundreds of thousands of non-Muslim students attending schools in the province of Punjab: Islamic studies are compulsory subjects in schools and universities and non-Muslim students are forced to follow them for fear of being discriminated or in order not to face obstacles or other difficulties in their studies.
Moreover, "religions other than Islam are treated with contempt and prejudice": civil society organizations have listed passagges from textbooks that reflect religious hatred and distort history. Faced with this overall picture, according to the Commission, the result is "the commodification of education and radicalization of society".
The Commission promotes "quality education", saying that public education must be separated from religious education, in accordance with the Constitution. The government is asked to "the suspend classes and practices that contradict the universal human rights, which are discriminatory and defamatory towards religious minorities", and not to impose Islamic studies to non-Muslims, offering more options to Christian, Hindu and Sikh students. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/03/2012)

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