01/10/2012, 00.00
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Catholic schools teaching pope’s values of peace for past 60 years

by Kalpit Parajuli
Jesuit superior talks about the pope’s message for the 45th World Peace Day. Catholic values taught in schools are the basis for the shift from a Hindu monarchy to a secular state in 2006.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – “Catholic schools are considered the best schools in Nepal because for decades they taught the values of peace and justice, which Benedict XVI stressed in his message for World Peace Day,” Fr Lawrence Maniyar told AsiaNews. The Jesuit regional superior has been involved in education for 35 years. In his view, Hindu extremism and intolerance towards religious and social minorities are widespread in schools not based on such values.

“Since our first mission, we have urged families to register their children only if they shared our values, which are the basis of everyman’s life,” Fr Lawrence said.

For education expert Tirtha Khania, the presence of Catholic schools open to everyone has helped the country change.

Criminal and violent groups like the Nepal Defence Army (NDA) are the product of bad teaching. Nepal’s Catholic community is instead the product of Jesuit educational activity.

After educating King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya in their schools in Darjeeling and Kurseong (India), the Jesuits were invited to Nepal in 1950 to open a school in Godivari, a neighbourhood in Kathmandu, by General Mrigendra Shamsher Rana, who was then in charge of education. Rana later said that he had been impressed by the quality and method of Catholic teaching during a visit to St. Xavier School in Patna (India).

At the present, the Company of Jesus runs four high schools and a college. They also run 33 primary and secondary schools. Most Nepali political leaders were educated in them.

Suddha Rauniyar, a Hindu Ayurvedic doctor who went to St. Xavier School in Kathmandu, said that he cannot forget or detach himself from what he learnt at school from the Jesuits in relation to social justice and peace. Over the years, he has kept in touch with his old teachers and has begun to work as a volunteer among street kids.

“I am doing my best to spread the pope’s message among the people,” he said. “I hope Nepalis will not only hear the pope’s message but also practice it one day.”

After Nepal’s Hindu monarchy was abolished in 2006, the Nepali state has been secular. Although proselytising is banned, Christians can publicly celebrate Mass and other religious functions. This has enabled the local Catholic community to grow. It now has 10,000 members, 4,000 more than five years ago.

Nepal’s Christian population represents 3 per cent in a population of 29 million. They were only 0.2 per cent in the early 1960s.
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