The United Nations (UN) has called for religious tolerance and respect for human rights in Malawi saying girls should not be denied access to education for wearing hijab.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Ms. Maria Jose Torres said this in a statement yesterday.
Torres was reacting to the violence that took place in Balaka on Monday between Christian and Muslim groups which started after two girls were prevented from attending school at M’manga school for wearing hijab.
The fracas left at least two persons seriously injured while shops, a mosque, an Anglican church and a priest’s house were damaged.
Torres in her statement expressed concern over the violence and the lack of respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.
“The rights to freedom of expression and religion are fundamental rights that ensure human dignity and a functional democracy. Preventing access to services such as education because students choose to wear an expression of their religion goes against these important human rights and international standards on freedom of education.
“Such actions discourage girls from attending school, denying them the right to learn and actively participate in society, at a time when Malawi is focusing on ending child marriage and keeping girls in school,” she said.
The UN Resident Coordinator also condemned the violent acts saying they are criminal and unacceptable.
She then called on Malawians to respect each other’s religious beliefs and engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve differences.
“We also call on State authorities to ensure that all people of Malawi are able to exercise their beliefs and cultural practices free from persecution and discrimination,” she said.