Church in India and Educational Institutions:
“Any New Direction, New Contribution”(Introduction to 5th Hindi Academy, 31 January 2014)
The academic year 2013-14 for Hindi Academy had a solid start and orientation with the pronouncement of the theme, ‘Should the Church in India continue running educational Institution?’ Under this major theme, the first group of the theologians conducted a session on ‘The contribution of Catholic Educational Institutions from the time of British regime to our present time.’ It was seen how the Catholic Educational Institutions had brought about tremendous change in the thoughts of the people, especially in South India; they brought health awareness, and also expanded the scope of education preparing the Indians for the battle of freedom.
The third year philosophers, as the second group organized their session on ‘Influences of ChristianEducational Institutions in both urban and rural areas,’giving details of the gradual development with the stories from their villages, towns to that of the whole nation. Along with the milestones achieved, various shortcoming and irresponsibility of the authority were discussed. The third session focused on the theme ‘Growth and Development of Non-Christian Educational Institution.’
Today, we the fourth group of Hindi Academy, students of 1st and 2nd year philosophy are taking up the theme ‘Any New Direction, New Contribution,’ with the view of reviving our institutions, discovering better means to propagate education and to strive towards a larger horizon. As the theme suggests, it is not something that we have done, or what we have failed to do, but what we are to do tomorrow to keep the mission of the church alive.
To begin with, the simplest answer would be, ‘continue doing what is good and the rest will follow.’ Well, if we agree to this saying then this is what we have been doing for last few decades; systematized it, formalized it and are practicing faithfully. However, today we take a break to reorient ourselves for revived mission to be equipped with revived methodology.
There was a time when the missionaries, the pioneers of education were revered as gods; people loved them for what they were.We have heard from our grandmas, grandpas, and parents, how some priests and religious have touched their lives, shown them the way, given opportunity to study and supported them genuinely. Then why is it, that today students want to study in Catholic educational institutions but hate priests and religious? Why do they hate the school administrators? Is it because in the process of humanizing society we have become inhuman?Are we practicing totalitarianism in the name of discipline? Can we remember any instance where priests and nuns have made difference in our lives? Do we find any or do we see ourselves, one in the crowd as the victim of the established educational culture? If we find one such instance which has made us what we are and where we are, then imagine what if there were hundreds; our nation, our village, our society would not be the same. Yes, we have been educating the nation for more than a century; we have educated mass, but lost individuals. We have introduced formal education, shown the nation the spectacular and also mysterious world outside the realms of Vedas; empowered them but have stuck to it, considering the preservation of the system to be our sole mission. I think it is crucial to reconsider our mission because then people did not know and we taught them, but in the 21st century where the generation is far smarter, and information is easily available and accessible, we cannot afford to be mere promoters of knowledge over agents of change.
Imbibing the theological virtue of charity, we have been engaged in programs to eradicate poverty. Priority and consideration is given to Catholics in the institutions, many are sponsored, yet why is it that our very own are unable to excel, work hard to make their own future better. Then, is it truly poverty? What sort of poverty is it? Or have the victims of poverty become victims of charity that they have stopped aspiring, dreaming and believing in themselves? Again, whom do we represent, support and stand for? Is it the rich, powerful and the influential ones? As known to all, admission tests are conducted. Now, do we stand for those who pass and are admitted or those who do not? Do we prefer the ones who top the class or the rest who are not able to? Are we seeking for a genius or are we striving to make someone a genius?
Today, where we talk about gender equality, women empowerment and justice, why do Priests run schools for boys and the Nuns for girls alone? Why are there only male staff in one school and female in the other? Sometime ago there was news about the Indian students who were not admitted in some university in United States on account of racial issues? If such is the case, then are we not promoting the idea of gender inequality? Are we not saying that boys and girls are different, unequal deserving no equal status and education?Are we models of values? Are we promoting gospel values? Are we men and women of principles or brand ambassadors of fashion, gadgets, automobiles and luxury?
All these are not to humiliate ourselves and to make us quit, but to help us make our goals clear and thus strive for perfection; for perfection is not a state to be achieved but moving a step ahead from where we stand; and we have our entire nation to take along. It is time to evaluate and refine our motives because our race is not for success but for excellence, our service is not about performance but dedication, it’s not about sacrifice alone but passion, it’s not about being ahead of others, leading from the front but paving the way, creating better ways, a better trend not just to establish a healthy and happy society but the Kingdom of God.