Christian parents giving children Islamic names to avoid 'abuse' in schools

(Photo: Unsplash/Sameer Akhtari)

A bishop in Pakistan has said that Christian parents in the country are resorting to giving their children Islamic names to prevent them suffering "abuse" at school.

Bishop Samson Shukardin, of Hyderabad, told Aid to the Church in Need that abuse was an issue for minority students at public schools. 

"Many minorities give their children Islamic names so they will not be singled out as Christians and become potential targets for discrimination in primary or secondary schools or at the college level," he said. 

"In many cases, minority students do suffer abuse in public schools."

The bishop warned that even school textbooks portrayed minorities in a negative light. 

"The minorities are considered infidels and they are depicted negatively in textbooks, which promote prejudices against minorities," he said. 

"The fundamentalists believe that Islam is the only complete religion – that salvation is only found in the Qur'an as the last holy book."

He said that "most" minorities, but particularly Christians, were "afraid of attacks and persecution" because of the way in which extremists have sought to foment hostility. 

Some of that hostility is grounded in the mistaken belief that Christians are allies of the West. 

"If the West strikes against Muslims anywhere in the world, enraged fundamentalists in Pakistan often attack the churches," he said. 

But it is not only Christians who are suffering as a result of extremists; moderate Muslims are also at serious risk of being targeted in Pakistan, he explained.

"There are far more attacks on mosques than on churches – fundamentalist Muslims killing moderate fellow Muslims," he said. 

In addition to fears of attacks and discrimination in schools, he said that religious minorities were at risk of being kidnapped. 

"Muslims believe that converting one person to Islam earns them eternal life. If an initial effort fails, people turn to kidnapping," he said. 

"Kidnappings and forced marriages are most common in rural areas, where people have little education."

He said that education was "key" to the renewal of Pakistani society but that, in reality, many families could not afford a good education for their children. 

He said: "We also need resources to help needy families send their children to college, which many cannot afford to do – let alone enabling them to pursue advanced degrees.

"Education is key for every nation trying to transform society."