02/11/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Kerala: state committee recommends banning religious worship in schools

by Nirmala Carvalho
Kerala’s Education Rules Reforms Committee wants to ban religious worship in schools. Religious minorities are afraid the measure might restrict their freedom of religion.

Kerala (AsiaNews) – Kerala’s Education Rules Reforms Committee has recommended banning religious worship and graffiti in private schools that receive state assistance.

Schools run by Christian missionaries in fact hold regular prayers, including the Holy Mass, and school walls abound with religious symbols and quotations from the Bible that express students’ creativity.

The committee also recommends that only the students who have permission from their parents should attend classes that dispense religious teachings. Instead of the latter schools should provide moral science classes that teach pupils the values of honesty, non-violence and courage.

The committee’s proposal would also require private schools to appoint teachers only from a list prepared by a free agency with statutory powers.

However, many are concerned that this might lead to the discrimination of teachers from religious minorities.   

The committee’s recommendations coincide with the state-level conference of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

For the Church such recommendations represent an attempt by the state to take over schools and colleges run by local churches.

In a pastoral letter signed by various prelates and read during Sunday Mass, the Church called on the faithful to defend the rights of minority as protected under the constitution.

The Catholic Church has also taken a stand against the Marxist ideals of the Left Democratic Front government, urging people to remain vigilant against “efforts to spread atheism.”

In an interview with AsiaNews Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod and editor-in-chief of Satyadeepam (Light of Truth), said that the recommendations are an attempt “to bring political controls” and a “party’s agenda into the school system.”

“We stand for the right of private schools to hire their own teachers as a guarantee of their autonomy. Any eventual restriction on this freedom is a violation, especially for religious minorities. We Christians want our teachers in our schools because it is the only way to preserve and protect the Christian culture and faith.”

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