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Should Religion Govern Christian Institutions? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 21 June 2007 08:49
Really and truly. This is the debate in India.

The catalyst? The Catholic Church in Delhi wants to reserve 40% of the spaces at St. Stephen's College for Christian students.

The result: this debate on the Indian version of CNN. Fascinating and distressing all at the same time. But it gives a vivid sense of the issues faced by Christians in very different cultural circumstances around the world.

"As the debate still rages over the 40 per cent quota for Christians in St Stephen's College, the Delhi diocese says all the city’s 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 Stephen’s 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 Stephen’s College has met with criticism across the board. Does it mean sacrificing excellence that has been built over years?

“The very sequence of news events today tells it’s own story. It shows the tremendous role Christian education plays. I welcome this tribute. But coming to Christianisation of St Stephen’s, what’s wrong with it? People want to study there but they do not want the Christian part of it. That’s hypocritical,” said Valson Thampu.

Christianisation concerns

Regarding the quota debate in St Stephen’s, a senior historian was quoted as saying, “You are actually consigning St Stephen’s College to a graveyard because you are the kind of Christian who is the kind of Hindu that Narendra Modi is.”

“It’s a great pity that such a historian cannot recognise the distinction between christianisation and saffronisation. It’s 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,” said Thampu.

Turning to Swapan Dasgupta, a Stephanian, Sagarika Ghose asked him whether he was opposed to the christianisation of St Stephen’s?

“It 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 it’s 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,” 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.

“The 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 what’s wrong with that?” said Abraham Mathai.


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