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Going Beyond Teaching Indian Constitution

Going Beyond Teaching Indian Constitution

It is very heartening to note that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) instructed all Catholic educational institutions in India to teach Indian Constitution in order to make the students aware of its beauty and richness.  According to UCAN news on June 14, the Office for Education and Culture of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India issued a module on June 11, 2018 to be used in all Catholic educational institutions during the academic year starting June-July 2018. Concern has been expressed by many people about threat to secular democracy and the constitution of India. Ever since the BJP came to power at the centre in 2014 certain right wing groups began to take law into their hands and the state administration often remained a mute spectator. The impunity with which the cow vigilantes attacked and murdered innocent people on the suspicion of killing cows is an example for the threat to Indian Constitution. The BJP union minister, Anant Kumar, said while addressing a meeting in Bangalore in December 2017 that the BJP would “change the Constitution in the days to come”.

Constitution is the very foundation of a secular, democratic and inclusive India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking in the Parliament in November 2015 had said, “For the government, the only dharma is India first, the only dharma granth (holy book) is the Constitution”. The overall socio-political atmosphere in India indicates that there is a huge deficit of knowledge and awareness among the people, particularly among the young generation, about the core values enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Hence educating the citizens on the constitution is essential not only to protect and safeguard it but also to motivate the citizens to fulfil their duties. Hence the initiative of the CBCI is to be appreciated, although it is very much delayed.

As the leaders of the Church are expected to have thorough knowledge of the Constitution of India, the study of the Constitution should be part of the syllabus of the seminaries and the formation houses of religious congregations. The catechism taught to the Catholic students also shall include the core values of Indian Constitution. Many religious congregations have the practice of reading the constitution of their congregation in their communities. Why not the religious congregations and dioceses discuss in their meetings and monthly recollections the issues related to Indian Constitution?

The religious congregations and dioceses function under two systems: the Church structure based on the Canon law and the structure of civil society based on the laws of India.  Most of the dioceses, congregations/provinces are registered as Non-Profit Organizations either as Charitable Societies or Charitable Trusts or Charitable Companies. As registered bodies they are to be governed in accordance with their bylaws. General Body and Governing Body meetings are to be conducted as per the provisions of the bylaws and documents like General Body minutes and Governing Body minutes are to be maintained. All important decisions are to be taken by the Governing Body of the Society or Trust. It has been noticed that many ordinary members of the religious congregations are not aware of the functioning of the Society or Trust and some of them have not even seen the bylaws of their Society or Trust. Only a few who are dealing with the finances have knowledge about the Society/Trust. There is an urgent need for making the ordinary members of the congregation/province/diocese aware of the obligations and functions of the Society/Trust. Each member should have a copy of the bylaws (Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations) of their Society/Trust.

The institutions like schools, hospitals, training centres etc. are the units of the registered Society/Trust. Some institutions may be registered Societies or Trusts in themselves. Otherwise they are the units of a registered Society/Trust i.e. the diocese or province and they have to follow certain norms and regulations.

·      For starting a unit resolution adopted by the Governing Body of the Society/Trust is a must. A copy of the resolution of the Governing Body for starting the institution is to be maintained in the file.

·      For opening any bank account by the institution a resolution of the Governing Body is required.

·      The heads of the institutions like school, college, hospital are to be appointed by the President of the Society/Trust with a resolution of the Governing Body.

·      Purchase of any immovable property requires a resolution of the Governing Body.

As the units derive their existence from the legal status of the Society/Trust, units have to keep with them the following documents.

·       Certified copy of the registration certificate of the Society/Trust

·       Certified copy of the bylaws of the Society/Trust

·       Certified copy of the registration under 12 A and 80 G of the Income Tax Act, 1961

·       Copy of the resolution of the Governing Body of the Society/Trust to start the institution

·       Photo Copy of the PAN card of the Society/Trust

Lack of knowledge about the functioning of the Society/Trust, non-compliance of legal requirements and failure to maintain the required documents often lead to complications, litigations and financial loss. It has been observed that sometimes the authorities fail to pay attention to these aspects because of their focus only on the ecclesiastical structure and the way of functioning according to the Canon law.   

As the Indian Constitution is democratic, the Societies/Trusts have to be democratic in their functioning. Transparency, accountability and participatory decision making are not only democratic values but also the values of the Kingdom of God. Commitment to the values of the Indian Constitution requires the practice of these values by the members of the Church, especially those who are in leadership positions.

Along with teaching students and the members of the Church the Constitution of India the Church has a bounden duty to practice the constitutional values. Pluralism and inclusiveness are the two core values of Indian Constitution. Pluralism is not tolerance but acceptance, appreciation and celebration of differences especially in culture, religion and language. In fact, pluralism is the heritage of India and the legacy of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus chose Mathew, a tax collector, as one of his disciples; he presented a Samaritan as the role model of spirituality through the parable of “Good Samaritan” and he appreciated the faith of the Canaanite woman (Mt.15:21-28) and of the Centurion (Mt.8:5-13).  The Church institutions, especially those institutions serving the general public, may adopt the following practices to promote pluralism and inclusiveness.

·       Display quotations from different religious scriptures for promoting spirituality, human and ethical values.

·       Encourage students to learn about all religions without being prejudiced to none.

·       Conduct inter-religious prayer with readings from different religious scriptures and using common songs and bhajans.

·       Celebrate different religious festivals, focusing on the central message of the festivals.

·       Promote the Gandhian values, particularly non-violence for conflict resolution and peace building.

The Church in India will be making a great contribution to build a secular, democratic and inclusive India if the Church leaders and members follow the advice of Mahatma Gandhi.  “I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians, missionaries, and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, I would suggest you must practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down. Third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis upon love, for love is the centre and soul of Christianity. Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people”.

(jacobpt48@gamil.com)

(Published on 25th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 26)