The Church of England has banned hijab in schools in Malawi, leading to clashes between its members and Muslims.
In the Southern Region district of Balaka, the church – known as the Anglican Church – runs M’manga primary and community day secondary schools where students are barred from wearing hijab.
Over the past month, students at the schools have not been learning due to the school’s decision as the Muslim community around the school demand that their children should be allowed to wear the headscarf.
The Muslims also argue that they are usually involved in development projects at the school hence they are also part owners.
On Monday, two learners wearing hijab were sent back from the school.
Members of the Muslim community, angered by the school’s decision, stormed M’manga Anglican Church which runs the primary school. The group damaged the church and the priest’s house.
In retaliation, the Christians went to Mangochi Turn-Off Mosque where they broke windows and pelted stones at the building. Shops were also damaged during the fracas.
Several people also sustained injuries due to the violence and some were taken to hospital.
Police who responded to the fracas fired teargas to disperse the warring groups.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has expressed concern over the violence and the lack of respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.
“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,” said United Nations Resident Coordinator in Malawi Ms. Maria Jose Torres.