Our Educational Institutions Should Produce Thinkers, Indian Says

Archbishop of Bangalore, a «Man of the Year»

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BANGALORE, India, DEC. 11, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Ignatius Pinto of Bangalore has another feather in his cap.

The American Biographical Institute in North Carolina has declared him «Man of the Year 2001.» The archbishop said the award was a «very big surprise» because the group never consulted him.

In an interview Dec. 5 with the Indian Catholic agency SAR, Archbishop Pinto commented on the work of the Church in India.

–Q: After over 50 years of priestly life, what are you observations/comments of the Church contribution to socioeconomic development?

–Archbishop Pinto: In general the Church is doing a lot for the poor. There may be exceptions, but we do not go by exceptions. Education and health services too can be considered as social service.

In our own city we have three large hospitals run by Catholics: St. John´s Medical College and Hospital, St. Martha´s, and St. Philomena´s Hospital. There are a number of dispensaries and health centers even in the remotest places. All this shows that the Church has clear-cut welfare programs for the poor, the sick and the needy.

–Q: What area of service do you think the American Biographical Institute is recognizing you for by this award?

–Archbishop Pinto: I got a letter about three months ago stating that I have been selected as Man of the Year 2001 by the American Biographical Institute, North Carolina. This came as a very big surprise because I was not consulted before being chosen for the award.

The American institute has researchers all over the world. They would have probably made inquiries with the people and selected me for the award in recognition of my leadership and service to society.

I feel that I became a little [better] known when I spoke about Graham Staines´ murder and about the Church blasts in Bangalore.

I was told that I was shown on the BBC with the Chief Minister, Mr. S.M. Krishna, during the public condolence service we had for the Staines family at St. Mary´s Basilica and the service we had at Sts. Peter and Paul Church where the bomb blast occurred.

–Q: You are an accomplished educationist and have held key posts in the field of education. How far do you think our Christian educational institutions have helped in the country´s progress?

–Archbishop Pinto: Owing to high costs and infrastructure needed to establish professional and technical institutions, we are constrained to give general education that is either oriented toward employment or toward pursuance of studies in professional education offered by other institutions.

I am convinced that the education we offer through our institutions is sufficient for this country´s youth to branch off into better avenues of professional education/employment.

The education we offer has certainly improved the socioeconomic status of thousands of people in this country.

–Q: Some religious fanatics in the Indian bureaucracy and politics have graduated from some of the best Christian educational institutions. Don´t you think we have failed somewhere down the line in making our students more sensitive about the negative consequences of fundamentalist ideologies?

–Archbishop Pinto: The Church has failed to some extent in making our children «think.»

Not many of our students turn out to be excellent thinkers with clear ideologies; that is why they fall into the trap of dangerous and detrimental ideologies, which threaten the unity of society.

What happens is that most of the students are spoon-fed. For example, notes are supplied by teachers. This prevents the children from thinking and researching.

During my childhood days there were about 15-20 children in a class. Twenty-five students meant it was a big class. Today, a normal class has nearly 60 students. In such a situation it is difficult to produce «thinking» children.

–Q: If that is the case, then wouldn´t it be right to include in our curriculum, subjects oriented toward forming healthy ideologies and correcting destructive ones?

–Archbishop Pinto: It is not easy to talk about racism, casteism and other such fundamentalist ideologies in a classroom. These are very sensitive issues. What we can do is foster healthy and logical thinking among students.

We must allow our students to make an unbiased analysis of all issues that are threatening the growth and establishment of a universal family. We must urge our students to aim toward building a common brotherhood, a global family.

–Q: Do you feel the government recognizes the service of the Church in India?

–Archbishop Pinto: The government is well aware of all the social service being done for the people of this country. There are many agencies, associations and societies involved in such work.

Some high-profile bureaucrats have even observed that when money comes to Catholics from abroad, 90% of it is well used. In the case of others, 10% is used and 90% is swindled. This is only an offhand comment. We are not here to judge others; neither are we here for publicity. We do our work for the cause of the poor and the downtrodden, following in the footsteps of Jesus.

–Q: Do you see an increasing number of poor in this country?

–Archbishop Pinto: If we go by the numbers that come knocking at our doors, I feel it is increasing.

However, a careful study will reveal that the poor are slowly and systematically being helped out of their poverty through various socioeconomic developmental programs. The Bangalore Multipurpose Social Service Society, for example, is doing tremendous work in this area.

–Q: If someone were to write your biography, what would you wish to be remembered as?

–Archbishop Pinto: First of all, I do not desire that someone should write my biography. However, since you asked that question, I would prefer people to know that I am disciplined, punctual and a man of principles.

Let people know that I have always had high regard and respect for my elders, my teachers and government officials. These are principles I wish everyone would hold on to.

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