04/04/2019, 14.01
PAKISTAN
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Christian children have the right to study the Bible, Lahore activists say

by Shafique Khokhar

The Centre for Social Justice and the People’s Commission for Minorities Rights adopt a resolution demanding education without religious discrimination. In schools the ethics course should be an alternative to the one on the Koran, but the two are the same.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – For the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in Lahore, Christian children have the right to study the Bible, Hindu children have the right to study the Bhagavat Gita and Buddhist children have the right to study the Vedas.

Together with the People’s Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR), the CSJ held a conference on 29 March in which they adopted a resolution entitled ‘Right to education without discrimination’ demanding the right of minorities to teach their own religion in schools, as guaranteed by Article 22 of the Pakistani Constitution. Currently, only Islam is taught in schools.

The unanimous resolution is addressed to Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments. According to the two groups, Pakistan’s educational system is full of hate material against minorities.

For this reason, they want all biased references to be removed from the curricula, that quotas be reserved for minorities in higher education institutions, that the study of religions be included in the curricula, and that minority students be guaranteed the right to enhance the knowledge of their faith.

Pakistan’s constitution guarantees all students the right study the basics of their religion. However, most minority students are forced to study Islam. The law in fact provides only for the study of ethics as an alternative to the Qurʾān; however, the former is basically a course on Islam, so students have no choice.

According to the CSJ and the PCMR, religious courses based on minority faiths should be offered to minority students. Instead the current curriculum continues to violate the fundamental rights of minorities, even though they are citizens of the State.

“Religious education in the South Asian region is largely driven by political economic considerations and often has very little to do with promotion of principles of humanity,” said Baela Raza Jamil, CEO of Idaara-e-Taleemo-Agahi.

For CSJ executive director Peter Jacob, there is a need to develop sustainable action strategies aimed at creating a pluralistic, open-minded and tolerant society where members of different faith-based communities can co-exist and flourish in peace.

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