By Sheraz Khan, South Asia Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND (ANS – July 1, 2017) – Dr. Ijaz Inayat Masih, Bishop of the Church of Pakistan, who is currently visiting the United States, has said that the challenges posed by growing extremism and radicalisation in Pakistan can only be addressed through the proliferation of education.
“I am profoundly concerned over growing extremism and radicalisation of the people in Pakistan. Education holds the key to de-radicalising people who are susceptible to being brainwashed”, said the Lahore-based Bishop in an ANS interview on Monday, June 26, 2017.
Unveiling his plan aimed at de-radicalisation, Bishop Ijaz said he would like to give people from the marginalised segments of the Pakistani society an opportunity to access education through online educational videos.
He attributed a recent surge in extremism in Pakistan to the lack of proper education, over population and soaring poverty.
“Unfortunately, successive governments in Pakistan and other geo-political forces have abused the situation and used the emotionally charged masses for their personal gains.”, said Bishop Ijaz.
Over population and the extremely high cost of education, he said, has forced people to send their children to “madrassas”, Islamic religious schools, or consign them to the streets.
According to a 2015 report by Pakistan’s Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, approximately 1.8 million children study in Islamic religious schools. This means that the number of registered students in the Islamic seminaries make nearly a tenth of all enrolled students in Pakistan.
Bishop Ijaz expressed regret that the children who are disowned by extremely poor parents eventually end up as criminals, operatives of militant wings of political parties, members of war gangs, drug cartels or as mercenaries.
The Bishop underlined the need for an internet-based educational program to educate the marginalised segments of society.
Asked to elaborate on how he would implement his proposed program of imparting education through the internet the Bishop said that under the proposed online educational program both children and adults would be able to get online education from grade 1 to grade 10 from the comfort of their homes.
He stated that the program will aim to deliver online education to four groups of people: 1. Children who already go to schools. 2. Drop-out children. 3. Children or adults who never got an opportunity to get formal education 4. People who would like to get vocational education.
Outlining the implementation plan for his proposed online educational program he said students will complete grade 1 to grade 10 education in 7 years. “We will deliver grade 1 to grade 5 year education in 2 years. Grade 5 to grade 10 education will be imparted in 5 years”, said Bishop Ijaz.
Asked what syllabus will be taught through educational videos on the internet Bishop Ijaz said that the educational video lessons will be based on the same syllabus which is being taught in schools across Pakistan.
The Bishop said that online educational videos aimed at promoting technical and vocational skills development would contribute to a decrease in unemployment.
According to Pakistan’s National Vocational and Technical Training Commission approximately 6 percent people of the total population of Pakistan acquire technical and vocational skills and training.
ANS understands that skills development in Pakistan has been overlooked in the past and the country has been unable to improve vocational and job skills.
“We would make videos which will teach people to learn vocational skills. For example, the videos will teach the viewers how they can earn a living or supplement their income by setting up a cottage industry”, said Bishop Ijaz.
Asked when he plans to launch the online educational program the Bishop said he would like to launch the program as soon as possible adding that they needed financial resources for commencing the program. “We appeal to people all over the world to help us if they share our concern to give the deprived people of Pakistan an opportunity to get education”, said Bishop Ijaz.
The Bishop disclosed that the online educational program will run under the auspices of “Helping hands for Humanity”, a registered charity in Pakistan.
The Bishop told ANS that he recently attended a meeting of the Pak-American congress, a body comprising Pakistani-American Christians and Muslims that lobbies U.S. lawmakers.
“I told the meeting that the United States would not have had to spend trillions of dollars if they had put in place a viable education system for the people of Pakistan after the end of the Soviet-Afghan war”, said Bishop Ijaz.
He stated that he discussed the situation of Pakistani Christians with American lawmakers who attended the meeting including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, a member of the Democratic party. The lawmaker heads the Pakistan caucus in the US congress. There are over 60 lawmakers in the caucus. ANS understands that she has been to Pakistan at least 6 times along with senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Bishop apprised ANS that he also discussed plight of the persecuted Christians and asylum seekers with Ann Buwalda, founder of Just Law International, PC. Ms, Buwalda, an immigration attorney in Northern Virginia, founded the US branch of the Jubilee campaign in the early 1990s. Jubilee campaign USA lobbies Congress on behalf of those suffering religious persecution and human rights violations. Ms. Buwalda directs the Jubilee Campaign.
Lamenting the lack of educational opportunities for the poverty-stricken people in South Asia including Pakistan the Bishop said the nations in this region would have been a lot more developed if the ruling elite had invested the financial resources on promoting education instead of squandering money on projects that wouldn’t benefit the common man. “They spent material resources on self-aggrandizement and on building palaces and tombs instead of spending money on setting up educational institutions”, said Bishop Ijaz.
He stated that as a result of these injudicious policies there is now a yawning gap between the rich and the poor.
Bishop Ijaz was of the view that the elite were not only exploiting the poor in South Asia. Poor people elsewhere in the world are also not immune from exploitation at the hands of the rich, he remarked.
Illustrating the pervasiveness of global poverty, the Bishop said that people at the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder in the industrialised western democracies including the United States are forced to do two jobs to make both ends meet.
According to the World Bank the first Millennium Development Goal target which aimed at cutting the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015 was achieved in 2010, 10 years ahead of schedule.
“Despite the progress made in reducing poverty, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high. And given global growth forecasts poverty reduction may not be fast enough to reach the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030”, says the World Bank.
The exploitation of the poor at the hands of the elite classes is at its worst in most of the south Asian countries, said Bishop Ijaz
“I would call this the crudest form of exploitation”, said Bishop Ijaz referring to the abuse of people’s rights in the south Asian countries.
Asked what could the poor people in Pakistan do to avoid the exploitative and often manipulative tactics by the rich elites Bishop Ijaz said that people would continue to be mistreated and disenfranchised of their rights until they stand up for themselves.
“Education will give people awareness about their rights however, this is in short supply in most less developed countries”, said Bishop Ijaz.
According to the World Bank in South Asia the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day was approximately at 18.8 percent as of 2012. The bank’s findings suggest that more than 200 million are condemned to live in slums and approximately 500 million do not have access to electricity.
Appreciating the role of investigative journalism in highlighting human rights abuses the Bishop called for the promotion of investigative journalism in Pakistan.
Asked if Pakistan should amend its controversial blasphemy laws the Bishop said that the laws should be amended, however, he said that any such demand in the past has met with strong opposition within and outside the parliament. He ruled out any prospects of amendment to the country’s blasphemy laws.
When ANS asked him if he would like to give any message to people all over the world he said that every person on this planet should endeavour to become “a good human being”.
Bishop Dr. Ijaz Inayat Masih can be contacted by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo captions: 1) Ann Buwalda, founder of Just Law International, PC, 2) Bishop Dr. Ijaz Inayat Masih with Pakistani friends and colleagues last year in Gaithersburg, Maryland. 3) The Bishop seen with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee. 4) Bishop Dr Ijaz Inayat Masih while addressing Pak-American Congress. 5) Sheraz Khan.
About the writer: Sheraz Khan is a Pakistani-British journalist. He can be reached by email: email@example.com
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