A day after Karnataka primary and secondary education minister B C Nagesh sparked a controversy saying religious texts such as the Bible, Quran are not allowed in schools and that the Bhagavad Gita is more than a religious text, Bengaluru archbishop Peter Machado on Thursday hit out strongly at Nagesh’s comments.
Machado said that the government should include all religious textbooks in the moral sciences syllabus and not just Bhagavad Gita. He said that every religion has moral values to offer and the government of India also has recognised this by naming a policy “Good Samaritan” which finds its origins in the Bible.
On Wednesday, the Karnataka education minister had said that religious texts cannot be a part of the curriculum, and Bhagavad Gita was more than just a religious book, unlike the Bible or the Quran. Responding to this statement, the archbishop said: “An education minister is a learned man, but he should stick to his area of expertise which is the education and leave matters of religion and their interpretation to religious leaders… There are no books written only for morality or some books written only for religion. Religion is the basis of morality,” he said.
Earlier this month, Nagesh had announced that the Bhagavad Gita would be introduced in school curriculum.
When asked what the church’s stance will be on the government’s plans to only introduce Bhagavad Gita in the school’s syllabus, Machado said that the Christian schools will abide by the law and accept any decision taken by the government. However, he said that the government should incorporate moral lessons from all religions and does not limit the syllabus to Bhagavat Gita.
Talking about the “Good Samaritan” policy, Machado said that the central government has taken inspiration from the Bible for the same. The Good Samaritan law protects people, who help accident victims, from harassment. “This name good Samaritan comes from a parable in the Bible. The government of India has recognised how the Bible gives lessons on moral values, such as helping someone in need, and named a policy after it,” said the archbishop.
“The committee deciding the syllabus should consider all religions. They all have something to offer. Hinduism talks about “Vasudeva Kudumbam” (universal family), Christianity talks about the virtue of forgiveness, Quran talks about peace and Buddhism talks about how desire is root of all problems. The government should incorporate all of this into a beautiful textbook and students should get a universal understanding of religion,” he added.
When asked if the mobs and fringe organisations are acting with deterrence in their campaigns against minorities, he said that if the government wants it can take certain steps to control them.
“I think he (Basavaraj Bommai) is a gentleman. Unfortunately, people surrounding him are forcing his hands. The government should control these (fringe) organisations. It is they who are raking up these issues and the government doesn’t seem to have control over them. The government should address these issues because it is making a sensible government look weak and bad,” said Machado.
Meanwhile, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a right-wing organisation has given a call for people to report any instances of the students being taught the Bible in schools. “Many Christian convents have indulged in illegal activities like making Bible mandatory for Hindu students, banning bangles and tilak, insulting Hindu deities, imposing fine for celebrating Hindu rituals etc. In case any such incidents come to the notice of parents, they are is requested to share such details with Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. We would be starting a campaign against this and making government authorities stop such injustice with tough action,” read the statement from the organisation.
The archbishop, however, denied the allegations and said that only Christian students and those who voluntarily sign up for these classes are given Bible lessons in Christian institutes.