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ASIA/PAKISTAN - Project to reform Islamic schools: Christians approve

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides): "Updating and reforming the education system in Islamic schools (madrasas) is a good step of the government of Pakistan. It is a new path to fight extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism in the country. The government must do everything possible to improve its citizens and its country": this is what Fr. James Channan OP, Director of the Peace Center in Lahore, committed to peace and human rights in the country, said to Agenzia Fides.The government has announced its intention to reform the education system in over 30,000 Islamic schools in the country. The reform includes the prohibition of promoting hatred against other religions, faiths or ethnic groups. The government will be part of the financial management of the institutes and will carry out controls on teaching and school programs. The intention, said General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of the Pakistani army, is "to bring Islamic schools into the mainstream: there are 2.5 million children that receive education in over 30,000 Islamic schools. About 100 of these schools are involved in violent activity". "We want to put an end to violence and extremism in our country. This will only be possible when students educated in Islamic schools have the same education", the spokesman added.Fr. Channan notes to Fides: "Credit must be given to the government of Imran Khan, to the Ministry of Education and to the Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interreligious Harmony for the curriculum reform project. Children will learn modern subjects and about international current affairs: this will open their minds and help them grow as good citizens of Pakistan. In addition, students will grow up in a peaceful environment and learn to live in peace, harmony and acceptance of others: this will be a contribution to society and to the future of the nation".Fr. Channan, who in his work nurtures good relations with Islamic scholars and leaders, says: "There are numerous Koranic schools in Pakistan, and some of these are used to sow hatred or to promote personal agendas of small extremist groups. We welcome with satisfaction the government's desire to protect innocent children studying in these schools".Sabir Michael, a well-known educator and Catholic peace activist in Karachi, speaking to Fides, says: "I welcome this reform, but I urge the government to be more specific in its reform policies. It is important that these schools are supported by the government that maintains control over them".Fr. Mario Rodrigues, Rector of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick, points out to Agenzia Fides: "For the government of Imran Khan it is essential to carry out a reform in the school system. Hate speeches should be completely banned and children who study in Islamic schools must be educated to be patriotic and faithful citizens of Pakistan". (AG) (Agenzia Fides, 18/6/2019)

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