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New report reveals religious persecution children face around the world

by Tola Mbakwe

The research entitled Faith and a Future by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), focused on how children from religious minorities in Burma, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan are treated.

It found that despite a child's right to freedom of religion or belief under international law, students still face verbal, psychological and even physical abuse from students and teachers. It revealed that in some cases are subject to a biased curriculum that fuels religious hatred.

Cecil Chaudhry Jr, Executive Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan told Premier religious discrimination is impacting many Christian students.

He said: "We do not have the right to study our own religion in school, whereas Muslims do have Islamic studies as a compulsory subject.

"We are given the option of taking up ethics as a replacement to Islamic studies which often you don't find that provision because most of the schools don't have a teacher to teach ethics."

CSW said perhaps the most extreme example of biased education occurs in Na Ta La schools in Burma, where Christian children from ethnic states are regularly forcibly converted.


Chaudhry added: "There has been hate material that has creeped into our textbooks that is biased towards different faiths, and that all creates an environment of religious intolerance because the newer generation that is studying those textbooks, if they don't even recognise the presence of other minorities, how will they even respect those people?"

CSW's research said that the psychological impact of abuse children receive at school cannot be overstated. Many interviewees told CSW of the 'mental torture' they have suffered as a result of religious discrimination and intolerance in educational settings.

Students at a Christian school in Youhanabad, an impoverished Christian community that has suffered terrorist attacks

One Pakistani woman said: "My elder brother was 13 years old when he had to leave the school due to abuse...Even his teachers used to torture him both physically and mentally. They used sticks and words and they did not allow him to study. My parents sent him to one of our uncles' house in another city far away, to complete his studies."

The report was presented in the House of Commons on Tuesday, encouraging the government to take a stand for religious freedom around the world.

Peter Hershe
Child at school in Hpa-An, Kayin State, Burma

CSW has given a number of recommendations to United Nation member states including formulating and supporting initiatives promoting freedom of religion and belief.

"It's not a short term fix," Chaudhry told Premier. "It's a long drawn battle when you have to change the mind-set for the better. Pray for us and for everyone who is trying to provide equal opportunities for members of the Christian community and other minorities to live freely and in peace."

Listen to Premier's Tola Mbakwe speaking with Cecil Chaudhry Jr here: 

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