Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - In the Pakistani educational system, reforms and improvements are needed to promote tolerance and religious harmony in society: this is what Catholic Peter Jacob, director of the "Center for Social Justice" of Lahore, and former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops of Pakistan told Agenzia Fides. As the nation prepares itself for the general elections scheduled for July 2018, the "Center for Social Justice" is engaged in a national awareness campaign on a key factor: the education of the new generations, pointing out how the educational system is decisive in forming the mentality of new generations. If the system is tainted by prejudice or a discriminatory approach towards religious minorities, it will continue to foment hatred and intolerance in society. This is why the Center points out that the government's education plan ignores the constitutional guarantees that protect minorities from discrimination in public and private schools. "The current educational policy - points out Jacob - violates the Constitution but also different international conventions on human rights", discriminating some citizens on a religious basis and spreading prejudices and falsities through textbooks.
For example, minority students may opt to study "Ethics" instead of "Islamic studies", a compulsory subject in most schools and colleges. But the alternative course is impractical and often badly organized, so that non-Muslim students often remain in "Islamic study" classes. "A serious problem affects those textbooks that promote contempt and hatred against religious minorities, which encourages negative feelings among students that then result in acts of open violence", says Jacob.
The general situation means that religious minorities remain behind in the national literacy rate. The 1998 census of the national population shows that only 11% of Christians and 20% of Hindus are literate, says the Center.
To promote religious tolerance, national cohesion and cultural and religious pluralism, the Center calls on civil authorities to take necessary measures such as the revision of school curricula and education policy to ensure that discrimination does not enter schools. "This is the spirit of Pakistan: teachers, the school environment and curricular activities, have the intent to respect the values and religious traditions of all", concludes Jacob. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 11/4/2018)