A Christian teacher’s campaign to stop the preaching of hatred in Pakistan’s schools has resulted in his life and the lives of his family being threatened.
Musa Atique, a high school teacher, and his family, will be moved to a safe house this week run by the British Pakistani Christian Association.
Atique’s saga began when the Pakistani government began requiring the compulsory learning of the Quran and Islamic prayers for all students. Some of teachers who follow an extremist ideology took this addition to the curriculum as an opportunity to preach hatred about minorities – especially Christians — to the students.
The results were seen in the student body where bullying attacks and unrest increasingly became the norm.
Atique complained about the hate speech to the principle of the school, but the principal chose to ignore the situation. Other minority teachers were too scared to voice their concerns and the less extremist Muslim teachers also refused to complain about the situation.
Threats against Atique came to physical blows last March when one of the extremist teachers, Mohammed Akhbar, came into Atique’s classroom and started beating him in front of his students and calling him a Christian choora (dirty sweeper). The principle offered Atiqu refuge in his office, but the attack was only the beginning of a series of harassments, intimidations and threats against Atique.
Ultimately, Atique was told to convert to Islam or he would be killed.
A trip to the police to register a complaint was similarly met with inaction, even though the extremist teachers admitted their hate preaching to the authorities. After Atique went to the police, the harassment increased severely.
Atique then began a letter-writing campaign, starting with the district education office. The letter was also sent to the organization Christians in Pakistan who asked the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) to intervene on behalf of Atique and his family.
The intervention happened as news of Atique’s efforts to stop the hate speech in his school reached the community he lived in.
“Suddenly Mr. Atique started receiving hate mail through the post and by email,” reports the BPCA. “Often he found excrement in front of his door which looked human. The situation for his family worsened to an extent that the community began shunning him after local people connected to the radical teachers spread a rumor that he was a blasphemer.”
“I had serious concerns regarding threats to my life and that of my family,” said Atique. People were brewing a plot to lay blasphemy charges against me. I was being shunned by my fellow teachers, but some Christians warned me of the impending blasphemy charge.
This week, BPCA plans to move Antique and his family to a safe house. In addition, they will try to find him temporary employment as a private tutor. Afterwards, the organization plans to employ Antique full time at their school for enslaved children which they are hoping to build by the end of the year.