Christians alongwith Hindus are the two largest religious minorities in Pakistan. Christianity originated in Pakistan through Taxila with the arrival of Apostle Thomas in first century A.D. Over time the faith expanded under colonial era as a fraction of western commercial imperialism in 15th century. As per the recent census, total strength of Christians in Pakistan is 4.0 million, while in KP their population is 0.84 million. Despite very less population, Christian minority has contributed significantly in different fields specially in education sector.
Institutes like St Joseph’s Convent, The Convent of Jesus and Mary, St. Patrick’s High School, St. Michael’s High School, Presentation Convent High School, St. Mary’s High School, St. John’s Cathedral School, St. Deny’s High School, St. Francis High School, Edwardes School and Edwardes College were primarily established by the Christians in different time periods mostly before partition. The concept of higher education in Pakistan was initially introduced by colleges such as Forman Christian College, Murray College, Lawrence College, Gordon College and Kinnaird College (first-ever women-oriented college).
These missionary educational institutes are still educating Pakistanis, and in turn have contributed positively to shape country’s future. The missionary education institutes have also actively supported women empowerment. Girls’ schools have been established all over the country to promote women education. These institutions are still running under the efficient management of Christian churches, producing and teaching generations of academics, leaders, sportsmen, poets, scientists and lawyers.
One of the most important features of these institutions is the outstanding and unmatchable quality of education which has enabled these institutes to generate renowned intelligentsia. Out of thirteen Presidents of Pakistan, six have got their educations from a missionary school or college. These institutes have groomed personalities like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf, Pervaiz Rasheed, Pervez Khattak, Maliha Lodhi, Benazir Bhutto, Sherry Rehman, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Najam Sethi, Salman Taseer and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to name a few. Pakistan national poet Allama Iqbal and iconic poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz have also remained students of missionary institutes. The nationalization of missionary schools in the Bhutto regime broke the backbone of education in the Christian community. However, today Convent or Cathedral and other Christian institutions are still the most honoured centres for education in the country, where most of these institutions are owned and run by the diocese and religious congregations.
Despite such a significant contribution by missionary institutions in the field of education, Christians community itself are deprived of quality education. The Christian students cannot access these educational institutes that were built solely to educate them due to various reasons. Currently less than 1% Christian students are studying in these institutes.
In order to address this anomaly, these institutes should be allowed to maintain and enhanced fixed quota for Christian community all over Pakistan. Moreover, these students should only pay nominal fees as maximum Christian community belongs to lower or lower middle class. This will not only enable provision of quality education to deserving students but also help in social uplift of Christian community. Churches and Para Churches should also come forward and play their part as a main stakeholder by creating a network of projects to develop the community and provide free education to the most deserving and underprivileged children.