Bolivian education minister pledges to uphold religious instruction in public schools

.- Bolivia’s Minister of Education, Felix Patzi, has pledged to the country’s bishops that he will uphold religious instruction in public schools after delegates from the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia walked out of a National Educational Congress, saying it had become political and exclusive.

According to media reports, in the late-night meeting between Patzi and several Bolivian bishops, the Minister of Education said he would uphold religious instruction in schools and that the Church-State agreements would be respected.  “We recognize the contribution of the Church in the area of education, technical formation, and other areas,” Patzi said.

“Religious subject matter will respect the diversity of religions and that is something we share with the Church, everyone has the right to practice the diversity of other religions, there was never any disagreement on that,” he added.

Bishop Jesus Juarez of El Alto, who together with Auxiliary Bishop Luis Sainz of Cochabomba, said the right to receive religious instruction at school was fundamental.  Each school should offer instruction according to its own confession, he added, and in public schools, “the parents should be able to choose which type of religious instruction their children will receive.”

Bishop Sainz called on the government to, “clarify and come up with a consensus about the concept of secular education so that there are no longer any doubts.”  He noted that the Bolivian constitution already guarantees freedom of religion and of worship.
As the late-night meeting was taking place, the bishops’ press office announced that the bishops’ delegation at the National Education Conference decided to walk out “after a profound analysis” of the situation.

The delegation left, “not because of religious issues, but because the government is seeking to impose its new education law, which reflects an attitude that prevents dialogue about certain aspects of the future of education in Bolivia,” the Press Office stated.