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Indian President snubs Hindu fanatics by praising Jesuits

Indian president A P J Abdul Kalam praised the contribution of the Jesuits in the field of education, in his opening speech at the 6th Jesuit Alumni World Congress in Calcutta on Tuesday.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a prominent Hindu organisation had called for the President to withdraw from involvement in the event because, it said, his presence would "legitimise the Jesuits' activities in India". The alleged the Jesuits were a "violent Christian organisation". Fr Lisbert D'Souza, Jesuit provincial of South Asia, said the 21-24 January congress was a meeting, not of Christians or Jesuits, but of former Jesuit students, many of them Hindus.

Meanwhile APJ Abdul Kalam said in Tuesday's speech: "The Jesuits are doing something holy, something sacroscant by working in the field of education...Education gives one the ultimate human value...They have made excellent contributions not only in India but the world over."

The President also talked about his own education in a Jesuit institution, the St Joseph's College in Tiruchirapalli, paying his tribute to two teachers "who shaped me". He said that education should take students beyond religion. He recalled that his own father was the chief of the village mosque while enjoying the friendship of a local Jesuit parish priest and a priest who was a Sanskrit scholar.

Indian Express

Hindu group accuses Jesuits of 'violence' (The Tablet)
India's President Praises Jesuits, in Rebuke to Hindu Zealots (Catholic World News)
6th World Congress of Jesuit Alumni
Jesuit Alumni
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

23 Jan 2003