Debate: Christianity & institutes
Posted June 21, 2007
June 21, 2007
CNN IBN live
As the debate still rages over the 40 per cent quota for Christians in St Stephen's College, the Delhi diocese says all the cityâs schools and colleges that it runs should hire Christian teachers.
With the backdrop of fears that such proposals will lead to conversions, the question discussed on the show Face The Nation with Sagarika Ghose was: Should Christian institutions be governed by their religion?
On the panel to debate the issue was senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta, along with St Stephenâs College Principal Valson Thampu and Vice-Chairperson of State Minorities Commission and President of Indian Christian Voice Abraham Mathai.
The decision to reserve 40 per cent quota for Christians and Dalit Christians in St Stephenâs College has met with criticism across the board. Does it mean sacrificing excellence that has been built over years?
âThe very sequence of news events today tells itâs own story. It shows the tremendous role Christian education plays. I welcome this tribute. But coming to Christianisation of St Stephenâs, whatâs wrong with it? People want to study there but they do not want the Christian part of it. Thatâs hypocritical,â said Valson Thampu.
Regarding the quota debate in St Stephenâs, a senior historian was quoted as saying, âYou are actually consigning St Stephenâs College to a graveyard because you are the kind of Christian who is the kind of Hindu that Narendra Modi is.â
âItâs a great pity that such a historian cannot recognise the distinction between christianisation and saffronisation. Itâs a great tragedy that many people in the country are better informed than the Supreme Court. They must read the TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka verdict, which obligates me to admit at least 50 per cent from the Christian community. The SC has taken the view that minorities are allowed to establish institutions mainly to meet the educational needs of the community. If you deny the aspirations of your community, the only motive for doing that would be corruption,â said Thampu.
Turning to Swapan Dasgupta, a Stephanian, Sagarika Ghose asked him whether he was opposed to the christianisation of St Stephenâs?
âIt really depends on what you mean by a Christian institution. The College was always a Christian institution in the sense that it spread the wider ethos of Christianity. Now if itâs made a completely denominational institution, it would hit at the very purpose at what the founders has in mind. The institution was meant to be a facilitator of a happy amalgam between the east and the west. Thampu is making the College a church institution,â he said.
Was the Christian ecumenism being defeated by Christian evangelism? Are the traditions, which the institutions were built, getting lost in the search of power, glory and money.
âThe church in India has taken the responsibility of starting educational institutions in the country and none of them can be proved to have indulged in conversions. We have a right to govern our institutions, which is guaranteed in the Constitution itself. So whatâs wrong with that?â said Abraham Mathai.
Liberal outlook vs Christianity
What should a graduate of St Stephenâs be: An Indian with a liberal outlook, or should he be steeped in Christianity?
âI feel bad for Narendra Modi because you people make him out to be the last and worst invective of English language and then we have people like Swapan Dasgupta and Chandan Mitra who are his ardent supporters. The goal and the mark of good education so that one becomes socially aware and pro-active. The mark of an educated person is responsibility. Through education, my goal is to instill social justice. If you wait for a few months, something historic and glorious is in the making. All will be proud it,â said Thampu.
To that, Sagarika Ghose said he was making the future generation bear the cross of social justice.
Religion plays the game
âWhat is very clear is that Mr Thampu is driven by a very deep political agenda which centers on envy. Hereâs a man who is trying to undo what the church, especially that of England, established,â said Dasgupta.
But how was Thampu doing anything different from what Modi was doing? Considering Dasgupta found no fault with him, why was he critical of Thampuâs policies?
âMr Narendra Modi has nothing to do with Christian institutions,â defended Dasgupta.
Stepping away from excellence in education?
The Christian institutions in India have provided generations of educated young people to India. Is it fair for the new Christians of today to completely undo the brave work done by the Jesuits?
âIt is an apprehension from your (media) side that they will undo it. They will actually improve. If there is reservation for Christian Dalits in the existing quota permitted by the Supreme Court, it is called sacrificial reservation. Now the Supreme Court has asked the Government of India to reply as to why Dalit Christians have been denied reservation all these years,â said Abraham Mathai.