Teaching Hate: Pakistan’s Schools Sowing the Seeds of Christian Persecution
By ICC’s Pakistan Correspondent
09/21/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In July, teenagers killed their classmate, Wajaish Kumar, with their teacher’s help. 12-year-old Kasheesh suffered a fractured elbow after her teacher beat her in school. Several months before that, Faisalabad teachers locked a young Christian girl in the school washroom because they accused her of using “Muslim” washrooms. What do these attacks have in common? Christian schoolchildren in Pakistan’s education system.
These stories are only a few of the many persecution stories told by Christians in the Pakistani school system and they fit within the broader pattern of nationwide Christian persecution. The recent Easter bombings in Lahore and armed attacks in Peshawar represent the horrible end product of Pakistan’s deep-seeded intolerance toward Christianity which is unfortunately nurtured in schools.
Maqbool Masih, a Christian student, describes how teachers encourage Christian persecution in class. “Weeks back, a teacher was lecturing on Islamic history,” Masih told International Christian Concern (ICC). “However, he started provoking the students against the ‘non-believers.’ He passionately encouraged hatred against Christians. If he knew I was a Christian, he would have sent me to heaven.”
Unfortunately, this verbal, anti-Christian teaching can materialize into physical persecution and social discrimination. One Christian girl, for example, was beaten by her teacher at a private school in Lahore until two of her fingers were fractured in February 2016. Other teachers force their Christian students, some as young as eight-years-old, to clean the entire school building including offices and washrooms every day instead of attending class. Some students even report that some teachers force the Christian students to clean the teachers’ homes as well.
In addition to physical persecution, some schools practice social discrimination including segregation. For example, a 12-year-old student told ICC that “We [Christian students] are not allowed to drink water from the school tap throughout the schooling hours and have to keep our mugs separate from the other students.” One teacher beat a Muslim student because she drank water from her Christian friend’s bottle because “she wanted to know the ‘difference of taste’ of Christian’s water [from the Muslims’ water].”
While Christian students are not allowed to practice their faith at school, teachers force all students to learn Islamic teachings. If not, they are punished. This month, in a village near Faisalabad, a teacher hit an eight-year-old Christian female student in the eye with a stick because she did not memorize the assigned Islamic verses.
Students are not the only victims of persecution in Pakistan’s school system. Nabela Nadeem, a female Christian teacher, notes that “Christian teachers are also targeted by school officials for conversion to Islam.” Nadeem continued, “A Christian teacher is never accepted as a higher ranked official at schools. A few months ago, a Christian headmaster was beaten and abused by the school’s junior teachers because they refused to accept a Christian as a school administrator.”
Another teacher acknowledged the social discrimination against Christian educators, “Teachers belonging to the majority religion [Islam], glorify their faith as the holiest and they paint other religions as inferior and show no respect to them.”
Human rights leaders denounce Pakistan’s education system. Peter Jacob, head of the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice, argues that “besides imparting knowledge and textbooks, the educational institutions and teaching at schools should focus on educating young minds about universal humanity, religious harmony, diversity, dignity of human beings, and equal citizenship.” Instead of religious harmony, Jacob contends that “there are several layers of religious discrimination in Pakistan’s education system, policy, and textbooks that authorities need to address.”
One Christian teacher, Atta Urehman Saman, aptly summarizes the heartbreaking situation for Christian students in Pakistan’s schools, “Students that identify with a minority religion experience various discriminations and persecutions in educational institutions throughout the country. Most of the discrimination is physical and mental torture, hate speech, and forced conversion of female students by their teachers or classmates.”
No child should have to sacrifice their faith or risk their life for an education, so ICC continually seeks to support the innocent children and their families through medical, educational, and other forms of assistance.