Edwardes College was founded by the Church Missionary Society in the 1850s. The institute resisted the nationalisation of Christian schools after Bhutto took over in 1971. For activists and Catholics, "Grabbing missionary institutions is against the constitution of Pakistan”.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Peshawar High Court issued an order to nationalise Edwardes College in Peshawar. For the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), this is an illegal seizure of Church property.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Church officials and local activists expressed their deep concern at the court’s decision, issued by Judge Qaiser Rasheed Khan on 1st October. They contend that “Grabbing missionary institutions is against the constitution of Pakistan”.
The Church Missionary Society founded the Edwardes High School in the 1850s, which was later upgraded to the status of college in 1900 under the direct management of the Church of Pakistan (united Protestant), Diocese of Peshawar.
Now it might end up in the hands of government officials, who could change its Christian character and end its testimony of faith.
Since it was founded, the college has remained a private institution, resisting the nationalisation of many Christian schools under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after he came to power in 1971.
The Church and civil society groups have protested against the court order, which has not yet been implemented. They plan to challenge the ruling in a higher court.
The NCJP has slammed the illegal action by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, calling for the denationalisation of Edwardes College as well as other educational institutions such as Gordon College (Rawalpindi), Murray College (Sialkot), and others that used to held by Churches and Christian communities.
For NCJP national director Fr Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani), this kind of action by the government weakens the ability of the Churches and Christian communities to work for Pakistan’s progress.
Christian and other minorities in Pakistan have served the nation in many areas, particularly health and education. The authorities should acknowledge the efforts made by minority communities instead of illegally grabbing their assets.
NCJP president Mgr Joseph Arshad, who also chairs the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, stressed that education must not stop due to any political intervention.
Activist Rojar Noor Alam strongly condemns “this serious attempt to sabotage the rights of religious minorities.” In his view, the court’s decision violates the “rights of religious minorities enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan” and “is such a bad move by the government”.
The college has “produced some remarkable brains who served this country well,” he noted. “Such a move creates an atmosphere of uncertainty for the other missionary institutes which have served this country and nation since the birth of Pakistan.”