A senior Church leader in Pakistan has warned that Muslim children throughout Pakistan are being indoctrinated with hatred for Christians.
A rare insight into how the anti-Christian persecutors of tomorrow are being created in Pakistan was provided this week by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw.
“A huge problem we face in Pakistan – one that is deeply divisive across many sections of society – is hate material in school text books,” he said.
“For example, in class one, five-year-olds are given a lesson in which they are told: ‘Who am I? I am a Muslim and the other people are infidels.’
“In sociology books used in class seven, 12-year-olds are told to ‘respect the Prophet (PBUH). Do not trust the Jews or the Christians’.”
These materials have caused “hatred and division” in society and many minority groups feel unwanted, he said, adding that things got worse after 9/11 when Christians were accused of being associated with and allied to the US or the West.
The Archbishop also criticised the notorious evidence and blasphemy laws of Pakistan.
Under the evidence laws, the evidence of a Christian man is worth half that of a Muslim man and the evidence of a Christian woman is worth just a quarter.
Under the blasphemy laws, it is a crime punishable by death to defame the name of the Prophet and descration of the Quran is punished by life in prison.
Then there are the cultural aspects of Islamisation, the Archbishop added.
“In some parts of the Punjab Province, even in the 21st century, Christians are prevented from using the crockery used by Muslims.
“Christians, for example, cannot drink out of the same glass as a Muslim. This was the alleged offence committed by Asia Bibi who even now could be executed because of the supposed blasphemous comments made to defend her actions.”
A member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Shaw was in London as a guest of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
He addressed a meeting in Parliament and also spoke at this week’s Foreign Office conference on preventing violent extremism by building inclusive and plural societies.
In his Foreign Office talk, he drew on the vision of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan in August 1947.
“A model society is a society in which an individual is free to choose his or her religion and is free to express his or her faith both in public and in private.
“Moreover, such an individual not only respects his or her rights and responsibilities but equally respects the rights and responsibilities of others. This is the society in which an individual acts justly and in equal measure receives justice,” he said.
Jinnah also wrote: “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Archbishop Shaw said Pakistan had now fallen under the influence of hard-line Islamic groups, and from being a home for Muslims it has gradually moved in the direction of becoming an Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he said.
On the bright side, however, over the past 14 years he and other Christian leaders have built interfaith groups at all levels – within villages, towns and big cities – aimed at striving towards a vision of the common good.
“We do not discuss matters of faith; we look at devising solutions to social and economic problems for example peace promotion, health issues, combatting poverty and education. Through these means, we Christians have become better accepted in society. No longer is it presumd that we are agents of the West or the US.”
The strategy has been to train young people to promote Christian values rather than engage in debate and get bogged down in theological controversy.
“The path to inter-religious harmony is long and winding, but at least we have begun and we are seeing the fruits of our labours,” he said.
Of Pakistan’s 192.8 million population, 3.9 million are Christians.
According to the Open Doors World Watch List, it is the sixth worst country for persecution, and Christians experience more violence in Pakistan than almost anywhere else.