Pakistan: Christian students face 'victimisation and religious persecution'

Pakistani Christians demonstrated over condemn the lynching of a Christian couple in a village in Punjab province in November 2014. Christians face systematic discrimination in Pakistan.Reuters

The Punjab government in Pakistan has launched an inquiry into allegations that Christian students are coming under pressure to convert to Islam.

Last year, leaders of Pakistan's Christians petitioned the nation's Supreme Court to end discrimination against minorities in the education system.

Peter Jacob, a Catholic who heads the Centre for Social Justice, said: "It is necessary to inform the Supreme Court of hate speech against religious minorities in Pakistan present in textbooks and highlight the discrimination in the education system."

Earlier this year, the Pakistan Minorities Teacher's Association also called upon Chief Justice of Pakistan to look into the victimisation of non-Muslim students.

Professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of the association, has now received a letter from the Punjab government promising the matter will be looked into, Christians in Pakistan reports.

The association had written: "Pakistani non-Muslim students are facing victimisation and religious persecution in the educational system of Pakistan."

The most recent example was of a Christian student, Naveed Rafique, who was told he was failed because in his Islamic Studies oral examination he did not recite the "Kalimah", the Islamic statement of faith.

Rafique told Christians in Pakistan: "I am Christian and I do not know the Islamic Kalimah."

The organisation reports that an attempt was then made to force him to convert. Simply reciting the Kalimah is regarded in many places as an act of embracing Islam.

According to the organisation, state schools in Pakistan are deliberately attempting to persuade non-Muslim students to convert to Islam. "They are not ready to accept the religious identity of non-Muslim students at any cost. They are forced to study Islamic beliefs and practices in the subjects of languages, social sciences, pure sciences and Islamic Studies from school education to higher education."