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Indian Catholic school sacks nun accused of insulting Hindu deities

Sister Mary Selvaraj was teaching a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, India's poet laureate who won the Nobel Prize in 1913
Crowds of people protest in front of St. Gerosa English Medium Higher Primary School in Mangaluru, southern India, on Feb. 12 seeking the dismissal of one of its teachers, Sister Mary Prabha Selvaraj, after she was accused of insulting Hindu gods

 Crowds of people protest in front of St. Gerosa English Medium Higher Primary School in Mangaluru, southern India, on Feb. 12 seeking the dismissal of one of its teachers, Sister Mary Prabha Selvaraj, after she was accused of insulting Hindu gods. (Photo: supplied) 

Published: February 13, 2024 12:15 PM GMT
Updated: February 14, 2024 09:28 AM GMT

A Church-run school in a southern Indian Karnataka state has removed a Catholic nun from her teaching job after she was accused of making derogatory remarks against Hindu gods in her class.  

Sister Mary Prabha Selvaraj was a teacher at St. Gerosa English Medium Higher Primary School in Mangaluru, run by Sisters of Charity.

She was removed from her job on Feb. 12 following protests from Hindu groups in the city, a stronghold of hardline Hindu organizations in southern India.

“We decided to remove her [Selvaraj] permanently to avoid law and order problems," said Sister Irene Menezes, provincial superior of the Sisters of Charity.

She said the nun had been a teacher for 16 years and worked in St. Gerosa for the past five years.

"There was never any such complaint” against the school staff in the past, Menezes said.

The school established some six decades ago has more than 1,000 pupils.

Selvaraj was accused of insulting Hindu deities and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi based on an audio clip circulated by a parent. 

The audio clip accused the nun of making derogatory remarks, and based on that protesters wanted the nun to be removed from her job.

The protest in front of the school was led by D. Vedavyas Kamath, a lawmaker from Modi's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Father Rupesh Madtha, the editor of Mangalore diocesan weekly news magazine, said the audio clip was circulated "by a parent and it made unfounded charges against the nun and others, including students, to create a huge uproar."

The protesters said the nun made the remarks while teaching a poem, Work is Worship, by Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet who won the Nobel for literature in 1913. The poem stresses that God is not confined to a particular religious place of worship. 

"It is a baseless [charge] that the nun made defamatory remarks against Hindu deities or the prime minister," Menezes told UCA News on Feb. 13.

We were “compelled to remove her” after the legislator threatened us “with dire consequences,” she added.

The district officials also advised to keep the nun away from the school "for peace and harmony" in the area, a Church official said.

The education department in the state, where the BJP was running the government until May 2023, has launched a probe against the nun. The rival Congress party runs the state government now.

The entire coastal district of Mangaluru is known for its network of pro-Hindu groups and their collective influence on government machinery including police, and even the media.

Mangaluru, formerly called Mangalore, also has a strong presence of Catholics with several Church-run educational and healthcare institutions. Christianity arrived in the coastal region with Portuguese missionaries in 1521.

Mangalore diocese has produced many missionaries and over 50 bishops, who work across India. Currently, 29 bishops and three archbishops from Mangaluru work in Indian dioceses.

Church leaders suspect the controversy around Sister Selvaraj was meant to tarnish the image of Christian education institutions.

Christians form 1.87 percent of Karnataka’s 61 million people and 80 percent of them are Hindus.

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6 Comments on this Story
MANJEET
It was good to hear that the Nun was sacked. Do not take other religion as granted, vice versa.
JUDE NORMAN
Do not pass judgement until the investigation is completed. This is the basic requirement of law.
MAX
It would be better if all the protesters withdrew their "children" from the school. Or the school should close down. Simple. There is no duty to teach those who are anti Christian.
MANJEET RANA
You should have better advised this to the school authorities. I have just commented on what has happened. It's a narration not a verdict. Your answer in 2 parts clearly shows that you don't have control over ur thought process. Pls work on ur comprehensive skills.
NIRANJAN KAMATH
Hindus are very tolerant to all faiths and this has been our strongest aspectcand tgecweakedt link. Tgst your Christian faith is very intolerant needs no more discussion thN what is out there. So if there were protests for what that teacher said, rest assured it is true. You better believe it. These are not baseless charges. We in Sanatan Dharma don't do this. And BTW WE ARE ALL PROUD OF OUR FAITH AS WE DID NOT CONVERT AS YOU DID. THE PORTUGESE WERE BRUTAL AND YOU FEARED FOR YOUR LIFE AND THUS CONVERTED.
ANDRE FURTADO
“Hindus are very tolerant to all faiths and this has been our strongest aspect”. I would change that to say that Hinduism is tolerant of all faiths and that has been its strongest and most admirable attribute. I come from a half-Christian and a half-Hindu family. That Christians were intolerant of other religions in the past and were in the business of conversions is well known. The Portuguese inquisition in Goa was violent but it was also directed towards the new converts and few people have known that. The current Pope has done a 180 degree turn on that and has apologized for the Papal doctrine of discovery which allowed them to conquer and convert indigenous people all over the world often brutally. I would distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutva. The former is magnificent in its acceptance of other faiths and has had no conversion ambitions in the past. The latter is currently as intolerant of other religions as were the Christians in the past. I am sure you all know the case of Fr. Stan Swamy who died in prison as he did not come up for immediate trial and whose computer was infected with staged sedition documents. An apt quote to your all caps dig and applicable to all faiths “ Point not to the mote in your brother’s eye when there is a beam in your own”
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