The time has come “once again” for Christian schools to make “Indian society more humane and uphold constitutional values”, a bishop said at a service preceding a four-day conclave of the heads of all Anglo-Indian schools in India on Saturday.
“We (Christian schools) have made the difference and the time has come once again. We can make a difference in making our Indian society more humane and upholding the constitutional values,” the Most Reverend Vincent Aind, bishop of Bagdogra, said at the service at the Church of St Thomas the Apostle on Middleton Row.
“Our schools are still in demand. We can make a difference. We can make a big difference,” the bishop, chief celebrant and preacher at the service, added.
“We see in our country… pooh-poohing of logic and rationality, wilful spread of untruth or brazen lies, even from the so-called learned and literate. So the hour has come now to see how to overcome such antagonism and division, to make our education system and educational institutions instrumental in restoring the fabric of relationship for the sake of a more fraternal humanity.”
Bishop Aind was speaking on “Christian education and its relevance today”.
The 98th annual conference of the Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools in India featured the heads of Church-run schools founded before 1947 and those of private schools founded by Anglo-Indians later. More than 150 school heads from across India participated.
On the sidelines of the conference at Loreto House, students of the school presented the culture of Bengal by depicting a village scene and displaying artefacts such as a terracotta horse from Bankura.
Father Rodney Borneo, the concelebrant at the service, later told The Telegraph that “our prayers must necessarily include the poor, marginalised, those who feel threatened” and that “we try to bring them in as an inclusive group, as people of God, in our prayer”.
“We value our Constitution and at all times, and now more than ever, we feel that the values enshrined in the Constitution must be part of our prayer. We as a Christian community are proud to pray that we will uphold the Constitution in all that we do,” he said.
There was a time in India when education was the privilege of the few, Bishop Aind said.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Church, many others, of whatever caste and creed, colour and class, began to have access to schools and colleges. This made a big difference in our existing fabric of Indian society,” he said.
“A good number of backward classes began to experience emancipation and many came to the mainstream almost. The time has come to make another significant difference and major contribution by upholding the humanity, equality and dignity of every human.”
Bishop Aind said that Christian institutions were “second only to the government” in providing education in India.
“It is said that the Church has pioneered the promotion of education in the country from 1542, from the days of St Francis Xavier who pioneered Christianity in India,” he said.
India is home to more than 50,000 Catholic-run educational institutions apart from 15,000 run by other Christian denominations.
Bishop Aind said: “We Christians (in India) could take the initiative to form such an ‘educational village’ where we courageously place the human person at the centre.”
He said that “education does have the rich potency” to turn this into reality.
“Therefore, it is my appeal as well as a clarion call to all sound-minded people, and the Christian community in particular, to take this task up seriously. Such a venture would surely imply going beyond elitism, exam-oriented education, competitive or expensive décor, costly gadgetry, fancy uniforms, heavily financed co-curricular activity, and so on,” he said.
Bishop Aind later told this newspaper: “Every educational institution should play a positive role but Christian education can take the lead…. Christian education has that backing of the motivating factor. We consider our Gospel to be the motivating factor which gives us the sense of dedication, sense of commitment, sense of accepting everybody as equal, as our brothers and sisters.
“Our constitutional values are very much on a par with the Christian values of fraternity, of considering the entire human race as the children of one and the same God, the Father.”