A top UN official in Malawi has called for religious tolerance in the country after two girls were prevented from attending a school in Balaka town, about 206 km (128 miles) south-west of the capital Lilongwe, for wearing a hijab.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres said Malawians should “respect each other’s religious beliefs and engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve:”
The Monday incident at M’manga school sparked violence between Christian and Muslim groups that left at least two people seriously injured, according to local newspaper The Daily Times
Shops, a mosque, an Anglican church, and a priest’s house were also destroyed the paper reports.
The Anglican Church, which runs M’manga school, had stopped students from wearing hijabs.
Ms. Torres said intolerance could “deny girls the right to learn”:
“The rights to freedom of expression and religion are fundamental rights… 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.”