The sisters of Jesus and Mary first arrived from France in the South Asian subcontinent in 1842, opening their first school in Agra. The Pakistani section of the Congregation came into existence in 1955, eight years after Pakistan’s independence on 14 August 1947. Since its conception the principal work of the Congregation is carried on by means of education for children from all social backgrounds. This implies a strong value education system, based on the values common to all human beings no matter what their religion.

Each convent also strives for academic excellence in addition to forming the pupils to respect and cherish their own culture. There is a long history of developing in our pupils an awareness of the needs of those less fortunate than themselves. The whole idea behind a convent school is studying side by side with children of different faith, to see everyone as mere humans, not Christians and Muslims. Teaching tolerance, peace and acceptance is an integral part of the ethos. Hence it comes to as a shock to many convent alumni that the nuns of Islamabad Convent of Jesus and Mary H-8 and F-8, were informed that their visas were cancelled and were asked to leave within 15 days. These schools are educating 4000 Pakistani children at the moment and their future remains highly uncertain, between this tussle between the government, particularly the interior ministry and the Catholic Church, who taking a rare public stance, filed a lawsuit against the decision.

There have been serious accusations by the interior ministry that the school discriminates against Muslims, along with covering up an alleged abuse case by a peon, accusing them of not hiring personnel without proper background checking. The nuns on the other hand accuse the wife of the Interior minister of holding a personal grudge against them after a falling out with the principal. The pressing issue is the defamation and discrimination against this institution that has roots in Pakistan for 125 years, over a personal matter. The nuns do not see themselves as foreigners but one of us. They dedicate their lives to the cause of educating our children, leaving their homes and families behind for a bigger and greater cause than themselves. It is really fair to cancel their visas on such short notice without giving them a chance to defend themselves, to save 4000 children from losing their school, their progress in the excellent quality education that they provide, the very education that our government fails to provide every single day.