April 14, 2024

New Delhi:

Catholic schools have been issued a comprehensive set of guidelines aimed at fostering inclusivity, respect for diverse faiths, and holistic education. Students must respect all faiths and traditions, recite the Preamble to the Constitution daily and not force Christian traditions on students of other religions, according to the guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

The instructions have been issued to help address the “emerging challenges due to the current socio-cultural, religious, and political situation” in the country.

The decision was taken during a meeting to discuss the Church’s response to the current socio-political situation in the country. The document comes against the backdrop of attacks and protests against staff of educational institutions run by the Christian community.

In February, members of the right-wing group Bajrang Dal staged a protest at a private Christian missionary-run school in Tripura’s capital Agartala today after a teacher allegedly prohibited a student from wearing a wristband adorned with a religious symbol. The protesters claimed the act hurt religious sentiments.

The same month, Christian schools in Assam received a 15-day ultimatum from a radical Hindu group to remove all Christian symbols and religious habits worn by priests, nuns, and brothers on their campuses.

Among the key suggestions put forth by the CBCI for schools is the emphasis on respecting all faith traditions without discrimination. Educational institutions are urged not to impose Christian traditions on students of other religions and to establish an “inter-religious prayer room” on school premises, promoting inclusivity and religious tolerance.

In terms of student formation, the CBCI encourages schools to prioritise spiritual and moral growth, including activities such as prayer, retreats, and recitation of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution during daily assemblies. The development of virtues and character traits such as resilience, humility, and leadership is also highlighted in the 13-page document.

In addition to academic support and extracurricular activities, the guidelines stress the importance of mental health and well-being, advocating for counseling services, healthcare facilities, and awareness programs to address students’ emotional and psychological needs.

For staff welfare, the CBCI recommends ongoing professional development, mentorship programs, and support services to ensure a healthy work-life balance and promote a collaborative culture among educators.

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