Srinager (Fides Service) – Catholic schools were publicly praised by the first minister of Jammu-Kashmir state in India. In a speech to inaugurate the school years Minister Mufti Mohammad Syeed, addressing teachers, pupils and parents, praised Catholic institutions of education for the high quality of instruction offered. He said that schools run by the local Church as well as institutes run by missionaries “help heal rifts among the people” supplying “the best education possible to people of all social classes and religions” and he praised in particular the service offered by Christians to the poor, orphans, the excluded in Kashmir, India and the rest of the world. “Kashmir has many orphans because of persistent war and terrorism” the First Minister dais, while assuring ample protection for Catholic schools by government security forces.
Kashmir state has a population of 9 million. About 12,000 are Catholic, served by 41 priests, 160 sisters and 20 catechists. The local Church is engaged mainly in education. Catholic schools are appreciated and chosen by Muslim and Hindu parents as well as Catholic families.
In an interview with Fides Service, Bishop Elampassery of Jammu-Srinager said: “By building schools in villages we help children and slowly build good relations with the people. Our method of evangelising is in fact to promote respect for the dignity of every person, like Mother Teresa. Of course we have to buy the land, build a school and pay the teachers, but we place total trust in Divine Providence and we have great hope for evangelisation.”
Created in 1952 the vast diocese of Jammu-Srinagar guided by its one Bishop, the second largest in India, cares for the whole of the state of Kashmir. PA (Fides Service 12/9/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)