LAHORE, Pakistan: Human rights activists have strongly condemned the violent attack on a school in Sheikhupura, and demanded the government take stern action against people involved in spreading hatred and extremism, and adopt a policy/strategy on religious tolerance.
The Chairperson of Voice for Justice Joseph Jansen lamented that over a dozen armed men attacked a school providing free education and food to children of brick kiln workers, tortured its staff, and damaged their vehicles. It is more shameful that they demanded extortion money to allow prayer and study at a Church-run school. He observed that this incident is an attack on religious freedom guaranteed in Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan, stating that “every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion”. He noted that advancing religious freedom is a human rights obligation of the states, therefore, the government needs to fulfill its responsibility towards protecting the rights, and take measures to ensure freedom, and justice for marginalized groups.
Ashiknaz Khokhar said that Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah underlined the importance of religious freedom for building a nation. It is the duty of the state to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance and prevent religion-based discrimination, therefore, the government must not allow citizens to engage in the persecution of people practicing different religions and faiths, and must take action against actors involved in threatening diverse communities to stop practicing their faiths.
Carol Nadeem remarked that religious diversity is considered a beauty of a nation in a civilized society, and it should not be cause for hatred and intolerance, instead, religious diversity needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. She observed that every child has the right to have religious education in accordance with the wishes of his parents, therefore government must not permit anyone to compel others to receive religious instruction against their religious conviction.
Obed Robert said that such incidents of intolerance are bringing a bad name to the country, therefore, the government needs to adopt substantial measures to enable citizens to practice religious tolerance and build human relationships, and take action to ensure that minority communities do not feel unsafe in Pakistan, and their religious freedom is protected.