Kerala: Church fighting for freedom of education
by Nirmala Carvalho
Marxist youth groups have attacked Catholic schools whilst the state’s left-wing government has discriminated against them. A Council for Minority Rights Protection was recently created to counter these threats. Irinjalakuda bishop calls for the establishment of protection teams to guard against such attacks.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Religious groups and officials from educational institutions together with the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabar Church) have decided to set up a Council for Minority Rights Protection. They have also appealed to the government of the state of Kerala to stop student organisations from attacking institutions run by religious groups and guarantee the latter their necessary autonomy.

The decision was taken yesterday at a meeting in Kochi. Auxiliary bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly Sebastian Adayanthrath, attorney José Kannanthanam and Educational Council Secretary Jacob G. Palakkappili took part in the event.

In a statement the participants said that educational institutions run by religious minorities must have the right to exhibit their faith; the government must henceforth stop banning religious symbols and teachings.

Mgr James Pazhayattil, bishop of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Irinjalakuda, issued a pastoral letter urging the faithful to set up protection teams (Samrakshana Sena) to guard Church-run institutions from attacks.

He also urged them to take part in a day of protest on July 29 at Chalakudy Forane church to fight the educational policies of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.

“The Christian community is facing a crisis,” the letter said. “ Members of the community should identify and fight the forces that are trying to isolate the community,” which itself “should recognise the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The LDF is pursuing opportunistic policies to stay in power.”

Fr Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church told, AsiaNews that the “rift between the left-leaning Marxist government in Kerala and the Church began [. . .] with the self-financed professional colleges which the church started. It was a paradigm shift in education in Kerala where professional and quality education is the need of the hour and thousands of students were and are still going outside of the state to get an education. The Marxist party and its youth wing are entrenched in the old system which is withering away especially because of the politicization of schools and colleges. Quality education has become costly and can no more be free. The government says it is acting in the name of the poor but it is short-sighed, looking for votes, refusing to comply with the verdict of the Supreme Court on self-financed professional colleges.”

Moreover ‘the government has given panchayats (village assemblies), municipalities and corporations (the there local government levels) the power to interfere in school organisation and management in violation of minority education and private school rights. This is an attempt to introduce party politics in schools, something that has been banned by the High Court.”

“The Church,” the letter said, “cannot allow her schools, which are minority institutions designed to protect the religious culture of minority communities, to be administered by politicized government institutions.”

What is more, “there is a move to ban religious teachings and symbols in aided schools. Some ministers and government officials have tried to discredit Church leaders and educational mission in order to create a bad public image.”

Similarly, members of the “youth wing of the [ruling] Marxist party have violently disrupted entrance examinations to medical and professional management schools whilst the government refused to give police protection. It is because of this that Council for Minority Rights Protection has been created.