Most young Christians in India are proud of their church despite scandals involving sex and money, says a study conducted by a major seminary in the western city of Pune. However, almost half of respondents from southern India, which often reports such scandals, said they were "embarrassed" by the church. Only one in three Indian Christian youths has a high sense of purpose and education does not necessarily help young people find the meaning of life, revealed the survey conducted among 5,300 young people from 26 states speaking 11 different languages. More than one third of the young Christians have a low sense of purpose in life, while another one third have an average sense of purpose, it said. Philosophy students at Jesuit-run Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth
seminary conducted the study under the supervision of two researchers, Jesuit Father Dinesh Braganza and Holy Cross Father Shiju Joseph from its department of social sciences. Father Braganza said the students conducted the survey, inspired by the theme "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment" for the Ordinary Synod of Bishops to be held in October. The study was conducted by 94 students of philosophy interviewing 2,933 youths from all over India. Another 2,353 youths took part in an online survey. Most respondents (93 percent) were Catholics. The study found that education plays a crucial role in improving the sense of purpose among youths. "But it is unfortunate that, even with high education, a quarter of the respondents had low purpose. This is something that the church should address seriously," said the study released on March 8. About 78 percent of unemployed youths had a low or average sense of purpose in life. Sense of purpose also decreases with age, with 40 percent of those aged above 30 having a low sense of purpose. Confusion, social alienation and negative relationships with the church and families are major factors diminishing the sense the purpose of youths, the study found. Young people identified with their church and felt it listened to their needs. Across India, the church should focus on spiritual growth
, social work and faith formation, according to their priorities. Most young people (80 percent) felt the church hierarchy trusted them and decisions were taken in consultation with them. "This perception … was the biggest predictor of youth feeling proud to belong to the church," the study's directors said. They also identified sexual and financial scandals and faith deterioration among the laity as the biggest problems facing the church today. The study recommended the church use its educational institutions to guide the young toward a purpose in life and to ensure skill development for employability.
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"Given that the immediate concerns and fears of youth are related to career success, programs that meet such needs are sure to build a positive relationship with the church," it said. The often experienced "inequality between clergy and laity" is a source of embarrassment, next only to sexual or financial scandals. "Local churches have to be proactive in addressing these concerns as these are major obstacles in being associated with the church," the study said. Catholic youth leader Abhilash Reddy of Hyderabad said only a few people are responsible for scandals and young people are aware that the whole church cannot be blamed. "I am proud of my church and will continue to be come what may," said Reddy, vice-president of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement
. Mary Margaret, a youth leader in Kolkata, said most young people like her take scandals in the church as a "test of our Catholic faith." She said young people in India face severe challenges, mostly related to education and employment, and the church should help them face the problems collectively.