‘O Jesus, where art thou?’
* No chapter on Christianity and Christ in Grade 9 Ethics textbook
* Paragraph on festivals of minorities missing from recent editions of Grade 9 English textbook
By Afnan Khan
LAHORE: The Ethics textbook for grade nine, approved and published by the Punjab Textbook Board, lacks a chapter on Christianity and Jesus Christ, which is an instance of open discrimination against minorities especially Christians in Pakistan, said Father Francis Nadeem, patron in chief of the National Council for Inter-faith Dialogue.
Ethics, which is an elective subject at the matriculation level, includes detailed chapters on Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Judaism and the Prophet Moses, Buddha and Buddhism, Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism, Shri Krishan Jee (a Hindu saint), and Guru Nanak and Sikhism. However, a chapter on Jesus Christ and Christianity was conspicuous by its absence, he said.
Punjab Textbook Board Chairman Jahangir Aziz expressed shock and said that this oversight was unintentional, and rather, was attributable to human error. He said, however, that if any concerned individual brought this matter to the board’s attention through the proper channels, they (the board) would review the curriculum.
During an investigation by Daily Times, it was also discovered that the English Language textbook for the 10th standard, also approved and published by the Punjab Textbook Board, was revised and a paragraph on the festivals of minorities removed. Chapter 2 of the textbook, titled ‘Festivals of Pakistan,’ contained, in its fourth paragraph, a brief overview of the festivals celebrated by minorities living in Pakistan, such as Hindus and Sikhs. The paragraph read: “Minorities also have their festivals. The Hindus celebrate Divali, Doshera and Holi. They pray in temples and enjoy their festivities. The Christians celebrate Christmas on 25th December. It is the birthday of Jesus Christ. They decorate Christmas trees, churches and their homes. Special prayers are offered in churches, and after that there is a great deal of festivity.” This paragraph is missing from the March 2005 edition of the book, which was available with Daily Times, and is the one currently in use at schools and colleges around Pakistan.
Francis Nadeem said that this could not be a mere oversight, since the officials at the textbook board were highly qualified individuals and held the fate of the country’s schoolchildren, both Muslim and Christian, in their hands. He said that this had to be a deliberate move to sideline minorities and hamper the promotion of inter-faith tolerance and harmony. He said that he had brought this to the attention of the provincial minister for minority rights, who had assured him that he would take the matter up with the chief minister. However, nothing had been done so far. He demanded that the government take decisive action and correct this mistake immediately.
The PTB chairman, however, said that the curriculum for these textbooks was not approved by the Punjab board alone, but was approved by the curriculum wing of the federal education ministry, and printed as such by the board for Punjab.
Minority Rights Activist Jaqueline Tressler said that she had pointed out this error to the concerned authorities several times, but no action had been taken on the issue so far. She said that this occurrence was not only in violation of the principles enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, but also contradicted President Pervez Musharraf’s vision of ‘enlightened moderation’.