While many people see news from Pakistan about fighting between Muslims and Christians, Veeda Javaid sees many peaceful interactions between the two.
"The mindset in America is so much negativity about Pakistan," she said. "But the Muslims are joining hands in our struggle. Many are living in harmony."
Since February 1998, Mrs. Javaid has served as executive director of the Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan (she compared the position to an American school system superintendent). She was in Tyler tlast week raising funds and awareness for the Pakistani schools she serves.
Though a Christian church runs the schools, about 60 percent of their 6,000 students are Muslim (the general population of Pakistan is about 97 percent Muslim). In Pakistan, education is something that isn't taken for granted.
"Students value the opportunity to educate themselves," Mrs. Javaid said, commenting on the 96 percent passing rate reported in the school system's newsletter. "They love their schools. There is no concept in Pakistan of not wanting to go to school."
The Presbyterian Church in the United States sent missionaries to start schools well before 1998, but from 1972 to 1998, what Mrs. Javaid calls "a dark era for Pakistan," the government took control of the schools.
"There was an imbalance in society because of the loss of the church," she said.
Another mission of the schools is the SHE Project, a women's empowerment program born out of home burnings in 2007 that forced women from their homes.
The project focuses on providing shelter and teaching women skills that will help them be financially independent.
"We believe education is key; when you educate a girl, you educate a community," Mrs. Javaid said.
Mrs. Javaid comes from a Christian family that values education. Her mother was given a scholarship to attend the missionary school, and Mrs. Javaid herself has earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry, biology and mathematics, as well as a master's in educational administration and business administration. She taught high school math and physics as well.
The hope for the future is to expand to reach even more students, Mrs. Javaid said.
"Our vision is to provide a quality education for as many children as possible," she said.