Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - Pakistan's senate approved the teaching of the Quran compulsory in public schools. The text obliges all educational institutions to impart the teaching of the Quran to Muslim students from class 1 to 12 (from elementary to high school students throughout the compulsory cycle).
According to the goals stated in the bill, "it is necessary to understand the divine message, to ensure its spread in society, to encourage peace and tranquility, to promote the supreme human values of truth, honesty, integrity, tolerance, and understanding of others". In addition, states a government note, the bill will help the State to fulfill its constitutional responsibility, as Article 31 (2) of the Constitution states that "the State shall endeavor to make the teachings of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory".
In Christian circles in Pakistan it is noted that the provision is compulsory for Muslim students, while no alternative program has been announced for non-Muslim students. Nasir Saeed, a Christian lawyer and director of the "Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement" (CLAAS), told Fides: "The measure goes in the direction of strengthening Islamization in Pakistani society, and this can foster religious intolerance. Instead of promoting freedom of religion, the government forces children to study the Quran. In addition, this law may have a negative impact on non-Muslim students, as many may be forced to follow those lessons".
Interviewed by Fides, Fr. Inayat Bernard, co-editor of the magazine "The Christian View" and Rector of the Minor Seminary of Santa Maria in Lahore, notes: "We are in an Islamic Republic and I am not surprised that lawmakers have adopted this measure. In Pakistan, in all schools, public or private, Islamic studies are already compulsory. In Christian schools we have many Muslim teachers, as 70% of the students attending them are of Islamic religion. Now the specific teaching of the Quran is added, which will be taught in Arabic. This means finding and employing other teachers, and this will not be easy for Christian institutes. Moreover, given the presence of different schools of thought in Islam, conflicts may arise within the Sunni world, with regards to the responsibility and choice of teachers, not to mention the effect this may have on Shiite students. In short, the measure will foreseeably be a hub of strong conflict. As for the ordinary life of Christians, I do not think there will be any particular problems. This is our condition: we live in an Islamic republic". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 31/8/2017)