Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says, MODERNISE THEIR MADRASAS CHRISTIANISE OUR SCHOOLS
360° VIEW Shillong, Aug. 30. Recently the Prime Minister made a statement that caught my attention. He suggested that madrasas ought to be modernised. Madrasa has nothing to do with Madras. Fortunately that great city is known today as Chennai.
Madrasa is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious (of any religion). However, in common parlance today it is understood as a specific type of school for the study of the Islamic religion. It appears that the main matter for study in such institutions is the Koran, though other subjects too may be taught. Madrasas also admit orphans and poor children in order to provide them with education and training. For poorer sections of society, where the commercialised education of today has become a luxury, the madrasa must be an attraction. Obviously, efforts to modernise this system, by introducing such subjects as science, mathematics and English are commendable.
However, when I heard those words, modernise the madrasa, the first thought that came to my mind was that Christian educational institutions need exactly the opposite. While the madrasa concentrates only on the Koran and little on anything else, many of our schools and colleges concentrate on everything else except the Bible. It is not impossible for a child to spend ten years in such a school and hardly hear the name of Jesus. Sad!
I am afraid there are already fingers pointing at me with the accusation ``The Church grows by attraction, not by proselytization.`` I am speaking precisely about attraction. However, if the attraction is only to good academic performance, success in sports, excellence in the English language, there is the danger we may end up with what one past pupil said, ``You educated us, but we paid you.`` Good business. Why should we complain then about lack of vocations? It is true Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium that business is also a vocation. Indeed it is. But it is not our vocation. We shall not put our huge machinery of vocation promotion, formation, on-going formation, endless meetings and programmes at the service of this type of vocation.
If there is mission in the heart of the missionary, there will be a mission field anywhere and everywhere. I know a headmaster who specialises in corridor mission, filling the long corridors of the school with attractive notice boards, containing many good things, including something about the Teacher from Nazareth as well as his friends: Francis, Bosco, Teresa, Savio, Marengo, Vendrame, Ferrando, Alphonsa, Chavara Kuriakose. I bet these can be very attractive. Our long school corridors are often enough full of children, always open to truth, goodness and beauty. ``Let the little children come to me.`` Let us not send them only to Amitaab Bachan, Shah Rukh Khan, Dhoni, Messi. Too much of such company may lead them to mess up later in life.
The words of another Pope come to my mind: ``Is it then a crime against others` freedom to proclaim with joy a Good News which one has come to know through the Lord`s mercy? And why should only falsehood and error, debasement and pornography have the right to be put before people and often unfortunately imposed on them by the destructive propaganda of the mass media, by the tolerance of legislation, the timidity of the good and the impudence of the wicked? ... Men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God`s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame -- what St. Paul called blushing for the Gospel -- or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?`` (Evangelii nuntiandi 80).
Cardinal Newman prayed for grace ``to preach without preaching.`` The words ``Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words`` perhaps wrongly attributed to St. Francis, do contain a useful message, if understood correctly.
We do not need to follow the Pentecostals and their aggressive proselytisation methods. Method and style depend on the context which is constantly changing. But communicating the Good News and witnessing to Jesus our Saviour is the raison d`être of all our activities. Do it always and everywhere. Look for ways that are effective, whatever they may be. And look for ways till you find them.