Another district bans use of “Father” for Christian priests

Published in Matters India on: 2:19 pm, May 15, 2015 Story By:

Raipur: Another central Indian district has banned the use of “Father” for priests working in Christian schools.

A circular from the District Education Officer of Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh state has called for immediate end to such usage and asked the Church schools to switch to either “pracharya” or just “sir” to address principals.

Christian groups in the state have termed such circulars as “administrative terrorism” to stifle Christian education.

The May 11 circular addressed to 14 missionary schools in the district came months after a rightwing Hindu group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, world Hindu council), arm-twisted Christian missionaries in the tribal zone of Bastar to replace “Father” by “Pracharya” in their schools, The Indian Express reported.

In the latest instance, the Mahasamund education officer claimed the district collector has approved the circular. The circular was also copied to the VHP’s Mahasamund branch and the state education departmental officer in Raipur, the state capital.

In February, Kanker district administration had issued a similar circular to the missionary schools.

The Mahasamund circular has asked the Christian schools to immediately inform the education department about the “action taken today itself” on a given email id.

Mahasamund Collector Umesh Agrawal justified the circular saying his department has received complaints that the Christian schools students were compelling students to address teachers as Father. “No one can compel anyone in this way,” he said.

However, Christian groups have expressed dismay over such administrative terrorism. “Earlier they beat us, now they are using administration to destroy our institutions,” bemoaned Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal.

Pannalal called it a violation of fundamental rights. “As a minority community, we have been given special rights under the Constitution. If they don’t want that, let them change the Constitution and the laws once and for ever. At least, we will be spared this administrative terrorism,” he added.

The Congress party, the main opposition in the state, too protested the circular. While state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel termed it as “Raman Singh’s clear attempt to communalize Chhattisgarh,” party spokesperson S N Trivedi said, “It’s extremely unfortunate that once again the BJP government has succumbed to the unconstitutional demands of VHP.”

Last November, under intense pressure from VHP, Catholic missionaries of Bastar had agreed that principals of their schools would be addressed as “Pracharya,” or “Up-pracharya,” or “Sir.”

VHP leader Suresh Yadav had justified the move saying, “We asked these missionaries the meaning of father. Father means pita. We have only one father, how can we address a teacher as father?”

Earlier, Catholic priests in Bastar had told Matters India that they had not asked or compelled anyone to address them as “Father” and that the entire controversy had no basis. Addressing Christian priests as “Father” has been a centuries-old tradition in the world, they added. They get the title after 10 or more years of training in philosophy and theology.


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