ASIA / PAKISTAN – An old Christian school seized from the Church: the rights of minorities violated


ASIA / PAKISTAN – An old Christian school seized from the Church: the rights of minorities violated

Peshawar (Agenzia Fide) – The Edwardes College in the city of Peshawar, a historical institute of the “Church of Pakistan” (the Anglican Church), in the Anglican diocese of Peshawar, has been entrusted to the state administration . This was decided by the Supreme Court in Peshawar, ruling in favor of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province, as part of the ongoing legal battle between the Church and the provincial government for the control and management of the institute. The Supreme Court ruling comes after the Peshawar High Court issued an order in October 2019 to nationalize the oldest educational institution in the provincial territory. The recent verdict of the Supreme Court is totally rejected by the Christian communities who, as the Anglican bishops of Pakistan say, “do not see their constitutional right protected and see justice trampled”.
Zeeshan Yaqub, activist for the rights of minorities from Peshawar, told Fides that “the Christian community in Pakistan is making great efforts in the fields of education, health and other humanitarian services, which benefit the entire population. , to people of all religions. We ask for the protection of the rights of minorities, as provided by the Constitution of Pakistan, even in their properties ”.
Edwardes College was born as a Christian missionary school called “Edwardes High School”, founded by the British “Church Missionary Society” in 1853. In 1900 it was transformed into a college and has since operated as a private institution, officially run. by the “Anglican Church”. The institute remained under Church leadership even after the government of Pakistan decided in 1972 to nationalize private educational institutions.
Many institutes were returned to the churches in the following decades, as a result of a policy of denationalization.
The legal controversy over the administration of Edwardes College began in 2014, after American missionaries handed over the leadership of the institute to members of the local Church and the first Pakistani Christian director was appointed. A Muslim scholar, who challenged the appointment, took the case to the High Court in 2016. Based on the High Court’s rulings, the Anglican Bishop of Peshawar, Monsignor Humphrey Sarfraz Peters (to whom, in the meantime , jurisdiction had passed, with the erection of this diocese) restored the original Board of Trustees, in accordance with the Constitution promulgated by the Church Missionary Society. Among other things, the Church has exclusive ownership of the land and buildings of the College: therefore, the College did not meet the criteria for nationalization. Monsignor Humphrey Sarfraz Peters recalled that the College covered all educational costs, like any other private educational institution, without the State having to assume responsibility.
The current government of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province has not accepted the College’s configuration as a “private institution” owned by the Church and has continued the legal battle by trying to wrest full control of the structure from it. ‘Church. The Peshawar High Court’s conviction in October 2019 ruled in favor of the civilian government, and after the Church’s last appeal, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa’s government.
A recent survey by the NGO “Center for Social Justice” has verified the strong weakening of formerly Christian schools and institutes after nationalization, in the quality of the education provided. (KN-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 06/08/2021)


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